Summit County Councilor Doug Clyde officially resigned from the county council earlier this month, sparking a process to fill his seat for the remaining two years of his term.
Because he is a Democrat, the Summit County Democratic Party determines his replacement. This is decided by a vote of the party’s central committee, which includes more than 100 delegates. There are two delegates for each constituency in the county.
On Saturday, the party holds a meeting and will hear from Tonja Hanson and Thomas Cooke, who have both expressed an interest in completing Clyde’s term.
Cooke lives in Silver Summit and has lived in Park City for over 30 years. He currently serves on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission and works for The Bicycle Collective, a Salt Lake City nonprofit that manages operations and e-commerce. Additionally, he is a part-time Nordic coach with Park City Ski and Snowboard.
Hanson is a fifth generation resident of Summit County. She was born and raised in Coalville, but has also lived in Park City, Oakley and Kamas. She has a background in marketing and hospitality, and has worked for Vail Resorts, POWDR Corp. and Talisker.
In addition to currently serving on the Coalville City Planning Commission, she is also Vice Chair of the Summit County Open Space Advisory Committee.
Clyde is an Oakley resident, and with his departure, no council member lives on the east side of the county. Hanson said that was the main motivator for her to throw her hat in the ring.
“I think it’s imperative that we have fair representation of all citizens across the county,” Hanson said. “And it’s not East versus West, that’s not the point at all. Because we’re all in this together, as a county.
Cooke said he was sympathetic at this point and pleaded for precincts for the council in the future rather than being entirely free.
“We have a moment in time right now for the next two years where the basin is bearing the brunt of the pressures of growth,” Cooke said. “And I think right now is a really good time to have someone who understands the code the best they can, the overall plan, what we need to do to change it. Because that’s where the majority of impacts.
Cooke referred to Dakota Pacific Real Estate, which is looking to build more than 700 homes as well as commercial space in the Kimball Junction area near the Skullcandy Building, as the elephant in the room.
He said he learned a lot from Dakota Pacific’s first application process, which was strongly opposed by residents, and ended up seeing the developer withdraw its application for the time being.
“I think the most important thing is that we need to reconnect our planning goals with community goals,” Cooke said. “The council and the planning staff and the planning commission need to be able to have the trust with the community where we say, ‘Well, if you want to solve x, y, z, then the best way to do that is a, b , c.” And that there’s some trust involved… I really feel like we’ve lost that.
Hanson said his planning experience has taught him that impacting residents is a top priority.
She agreed that Kimball Junction had a major traffic problem, citing her years of experience transporting to Park City from the rural county.
She said building a mixed-use development elsewhere could potentially help, to divert those who come to the area for services like groceries.
Both said there was a need for housing in the county, and Hanson said the creation of a regional housing authority could help. It would be an independent body solely focused on managing the housing crisis.
“It could really delve into this problem and maybe offer solutions that we don’t think of at the moment. The county council is really busy with so many things,” Hanson said.
“And I really feel like they don’t have the time. So perhaps a housing authority or a community group of citizens could spearhead that and bring some solutions to the county council that we could consider and possibly implement.”
Cooke also endorsed the idea from the housing authority. He pointed to Park City’s Deed Restriction Pilot Program, which compensates landlords for not renting homes short-term. He said he would like to see the county try something similar.
In addition to suggesting things the county needs to operate, the candidates highlighted the county’s recent successes.
Hanson mentioned the new High Valley Transit bus line to Wasatch County, which previously had no public transit.
Cooke said the overwhelming passage of open space highlights just how much the county’s residents have in common with one another.