Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. Overrides The Park City Yuppies, Approves SB216 To Allow A Military Hotel At Quinn's Junction

While I was unhappy with Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr.'s support of civil unions and disagree with his infatuation with the cap-and-trade carbon cult, his patriotism and respect for our men and women in uniform is unquestionably beyond reproach. On March 31st, 2009, Governor Huntsman signed into law SB216, authored by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Lehi), which would pave the way for the development of a movie studio and large hotel at Quinn's Junction, near the yuppie enclave of Park City. Stories published by the Park Record and KSL Channel 5.

The legislation allows builders to bypass strict local zoning codes to potentially develop a massive movie studio alongside an 800-room hotel under the Military Installation Development Authority Act (MIDA). Elected representatives in Summit County wanted the governor to veto the legislation.

However, the governor didn't exactly give the developers a blank check. He attached a strongly-worded letter, co-signed by Sen. Sheldon Killpack, to his approval of SB216 directing developers to work closely with local officials to ensure the final product does not clash with the unique style and brand of the area. The strict zoning, resulting in protection of open space, trails, and other amenities, has made Park City attractive to visitors from around the world.

Local officials accepted the governor's decision in a professional manner. Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson said, "We look forward to working with MIDA and hope that MIDA can orchestrate a good outcome. Obviously, something is going to be built at Quinn's Junction some day We're just going to work with MIDA, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to work with MIDA in a positive way".

Another Park Record article provides some more background on this dispute. For several years, the U.S. Air Force has sought a replacement for a small hotel it operated at Snowbasin about a dozen years ago. They settled on the Park City area as being the most desirable alternative. They chose Quinn's Junction, located near the Park City limits at the junction of U.S. 40 and State Road 248. The map of the area, available HERE, shows the junction just to the east of Park City proper.

But the proposed hotel would have 800 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Utah. Local officials believe the hotel is simply too large for a site that is so close to Park City. They either want the project shrunk to a more manageable size, or else prefer that the hotel be built further away, preferably near The Canyons. They already experience considerable traffic congestion at Quinn's Junction. The locals are also irritated that their planning regulations have been completely bypassed.

Councilman Chris Robinson hastens to emphasize that he's not anti-military, and has no objections to a military presence in the area. "We want to be cooperative, but we also want to be respected at the same time", Robinson said in a telephone interview. And Summit County Councilman John Hanrahan echoed that same feeling. "Summit County absolutely wants the Air Force", Hanrahan said. "What we don't like is circumventing local planning and zoning to do that". This, of course, is quite similar to what carpetbagger Dean Sellers tried to do in Wasatch County and what Powder Mountain is actually doing up near Huntsville.

Whether or not you think Park City is populated by a bunch of yuppie snobs, they still deserve justice. And placing an 800-room hotel so close to a town already experiencing traffic congestion would not be the smartest decision ever made. I don't think it would kill the Air Force to re-visit this decision and build the hotel at The Canyons instead.

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