High Density Housing Meets Resistance in Park City, UT


Salt Lake City, Utah is seeing quite a boom in high-density residential construction. In order to keep up with robust demand, builders are erecting condominiums and apartment buildings alongside single-family homes. Some thirty miles to the east, however, things are different. A proposed high-density development in Park City is meeting plenty of resistance from local residents.

The differences between the two communities are as stark as their locations on the Wasatch Range. Salt Lake City sits on the Wasatch Front; Park City is on the Wasatch Back. The former is attracting all sorts of economic development as companies seek to move to the city. The latter remains one of the most popular ski towns in Utah.

Therein lies the difference in high-density housing. Apartments and condos are almost a necessity in Salt Lake City because there are just not enough houses to go around. The demand for high-density is not nearly as strong in Park City.

Affordable Housing for Locals

Proponents of Park City’s high-density project say it is needed in order to boost affordable housing options among local residents. They say the same lower-income workers who make the local tourism economy work often cannot afford to live locally. They have to live outside Park City and commute.

A high-density complex with upwards of four hundred units could be a godsend for local tourism workers. Allowing them to live in the same city in which they work would be more convenient and cost-effective. But is there enough demand to justify building the units?

Property Value and Wildlife Concerns

Those opposed to the project cite two primary concerns. First is the potential drop in their own property values. As the thinking goes, high-density construction puts negative pressure on the value of single-family homes. That hasn’t been the case in Salt Lake City over the last decade, but it’s not to say it wouldn’t happen in Park City.

The other concern relates to wildlife. Project critics say that bringing high-density housing to Park City would alter the natural landscape and potentially harm wildlife. They do not want to see large parcels of land gobbled up by developers looking to pack in as many housing units as they can.

Finding a Compromise

Park City is a quite different environment compared to its more populous Western neighbor. Still, seeing what is going on in Salt Lake City’s housing market suggests that finding a compromise should be possible. There must be a way to provide more affordable housing for Park City tourist workers without negatively impacting property values or harming wildlife.

According to local architectural firm Sparano + Mooney, residential home construction continues unabated in the area. But nearly all of the new homes are single-family homes built on larger parcels with plenty of green space. Is there a way to combine single-family luxury homes with more affordable apartments and condos and still keep everyone happy?

It is ultimately for Park City officials to figure out. The project discussed in this post went before the county planning commission in late February 2021. It will have to go through several other agencies before being granted final approval. In the meantime, it is possible that developers are looking at additional high-density projects in the area.

These sorts of projects always meet with resistance, so Park City is not unique in that respect. And yet, the historical reality of human existence clearly demonstrates the need for different types of housing that can accommodate different budgets. If the project is not built-in Park City, it will be built elsewhere. Resisting a project doesn’t change the fact that people need affordable housing.

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