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Why Approve a Proposal That Causes More Traffic?

Over the past few months the Summit County government has spent countless hours internally working on solutions to transportation problems. They’ve spent over $100,000 on consultants who provided uninspired suggestions. They have taken input (and valuable time) from hundreds of citizens, that apparently will go almost nowhere. And they have concluded that they will have to solve the problem themselves.

We get it. Transportation problems are enemy number one in Summit County. However, does the county REALLY GET IT?

On Wednesday, Home Savings Bank is requesting that the Summit County Council allow them a special exception to increase the number of uses on their property (by the Blue Roof Market and Parley’s Park Elementary). Currently only community banking services and commercial/business office space uses, that are “low intensity traffic generators,” are permitted. According to the county’s staff report, “The applicant seeks to expand the palette of potential uses for the property.” These new uses (with permits) would include medical/dental offices, offices with moderate amounts of customer interaction and traffic generated, and offices with a high level of customer interaction and traffic generated. The Summit County Planning Department recommends that the county council approve the exception.

The planning department looks at four standards when making this recommendation:

  1. Is this detrimental to the public’s health, safety, and welfare?
  2. Is the intent of the general plan and development code met?
  3. Is there any other process that the applicant can use to solve their problem?
  4. Are there unique circumstances warranting the special exception?

The planning department’s conclusion is that this development meets all those standards.

Yet, what about the traffic issues that have been at the top of the agenda? The only reason to ask for this exception is to allow uses that cause more traffic, as they can already have office space with low traffic. Each of the additional requested options would likely cause more traffic, which also happens to be both in a current trouble spot (Highway 224) and around a school. The reports says, “Staff does not anticipate any nonmitigatible impacts related to traffic …” How exactly are they going to mitigate additional traffic going down 224? This traffic must come down 224 to get there and if it is successful at all, there will be more of it.

During the past two years, the county council approved a hotel on 224 partly because they felt it would have less traffic impacts than a restaurant and office. Approving this (versus doing nothing) is guaranteed to be the option that can generate more traffic.

So, we’re not sure how this actually isn’t detrimental to the public’s health, safety, and welfare (Standard #1, above). More cars cause more pollution (health). More cars will be driving around a school (safety). More cars on 224 will contribute to the log jam (welfare).

We also wonder if this runs counter to General Plan Phase 2 that is likely to be approved in the coming months. A thoughtful citizen pointed us to the proposed Synderville Basin General Plan Phase 2 (regarding another story). It says, “Policy 2.3: Do not approve any new entitlements beyond base zoning until such time that existing entitlements are significantly exhausted.” Would this be an additional entitlement? It is an entitlement of more rights. So approving this would probably be a good example of what the General Plan Phase 2 appears to be trying to limit.

We do understand the property owner’s desire to have more flexibility. We also understand the argument that says that a property owner should have the right to do whatever they want with their property. Generally, that’s a larger discussion, though. In this case, however, the current use was specifically granted in 2002. Any other use requires a change to what was granted before and the owner  knew should have known their rights when the property was built and/or bought.

It’s our opinion that generating more traffic, which would be a byproduct of this request, is not in the best interests of Summit County. Whether it puts 50 more cars on 224 in the middle of the day, 20 more cars at rush-hour (yes you have to agree that Park City now has a “rush-hour”), or requires an additional bus to accommodate this traffic…why approve it? It just contributes to a problem for which we currently have very few solutions.


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