The Park City Council on Thursday night narrowly approved a developer's request to build a movie studio complex at Quinn's Junction, a split vote that was indicative of the troubles that leaders have long had with the idea.
City Councilors Liza Simpson, Cindy Matsumoto and Alex Butwinski cast the votes in favor of the project. Dick Peek and Andy Beerman dissented. A split vote appeared likely as the meeting approached. Peek and Beerman, during a meeting last week, seemed unconvinced that the project fit well with City Hall's growth blueprints, which are outlined in a document known as the General Plan.
The vote was in favor of a firm called Quinn's Junction Partnership, the landowner. The City Council approved both the annexation of a little more than 29 acres into the Park City limits and development plans at the site totaling 374,000 square feet. The acreage is situated at the southwest corner of the U.S. 40-S.R. 248 interchange east of Prospector.
Raleigh Studios, a Hollywood studio, will anchor the project. It has other locations in Southern California, Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan and Hungary, according to the Raleigh Studio website. The Park City project will also have a hotel, an entertainment center and a digital-media center.
Greg Ericksen, whose family trust owns Quinn's Junction Partnership, said afterward Raleigh Studios has signed a 20-year lease at the location with a renewal option after the first 20 years. He said the studio has "significant equity" in the project. He said financial backing has been secured, but he declined to provide details. Ericksen said no public monies will be sought to build the project.
"I think we're welcome. I feel welcome," he said.
Ericksen said he wants to break ground on the first studio-related building this year.
City Hall and Quinn's Junction Partnership engaged in a sped-up round of talks in the winter and spring after the developer and Summit County deadlocked on the proposal. The county and the developer reached a settlement that called for Quinn's Junction Partnership to attempt to annex the land into Park City. If Park City had not annexed the land, Summit County leaders had agreed to approve a similar project at the location. State leaders have signaled their support for the project as a means to boost Utah's film industry.
Annexation and development deals as ambitious as the one approved Thursday night sometimes take years for City Hall to process. Quinn's Junction Partnership won its approval in a few months as a result of City Hall's willingness to work under an abbreviated timeline.
The Park City Planning Commission earlier forwarded the project to the City Council with a negative recommendation. The lower panel made its recommendation against the project on a split vote, 4-2.
The critics cited a series of concerns, including traffic, the layout of the parking lots, the buildings themselves and the location along the S.R. 248 entryway. Park City leaders have attempted to protect the S.R. 248 entryway over the years from S.R. 224-like development patterns through conservation purchases and largely limiting project approvals to institutional and nonprofit uses.
There does not appear to be widespread public interest in the discussions. Only a handful of people testified during Planning Commission and City Council hearings. The speakers were split, with some, including those who work in the film industry, touting the project as a boon for Park City and others worrying about issues like wildlife habitat. The supporters also talked about job creation and spending tied to the studio.
Mike Sweeney, whose family has holdings on Main Street and is a partner in the Treasure acreage overlooking Old Town, told the elected officials on Thursday night the studio project complements Park City's tourism industry. Sweeney was the only person from the public to testify on Thursday.
City Hall, which was a party to the talks between Summit County and the developer that led to the annexation request, won concessions from Quinn's Junction Partnership that Mayor Dana Williams and the majority of the City Councilors saw as critical. They included protections for the Sundance Film Festival from competition at the studio complex and restrictions on the designs of the project.
The development team told the elected officials during the meeting the project would be built much differently if the land remained outside the city limits. They said the buildings would take up more space because they would not be as tall, there would be more parking spots and the architecture of the project would not be as tightly regulated.
The City Council on Thursday night spent time on details like the environmental features of the project and the route of a trail through the development.