A group of community leaders and aspiring leaders returned recently from an outing to Las Vegas and Brian Head to learn about how those communities operate and consider ideas for Park City.
The five-day trip, known as the City Tour, takes place annually and brings the group to other destinations in the region, sometimes resort communities and other times larger cities.
The people on the tour meet with a roster of leaders in government, the business community and the not-for-profit sector. They trade ideas and consider which ones would be smart for Park City.
Mayor Dana Williams, who traveled with the group, said in an interview he was especially interested in learning about the waterworks system in Las Vegas. He said the system is operated on a regional basis and the majority of the water is pulled from the Colorado River.
He said a program instituted in Las Vegas has spurred water conservation. Las Vegas, sitting in a desert climate, faces challenges with water supply, as does Park City.
Williams said leaders in Las Vegas created what is known as a residential conservation easement that deals with water use. Under the program, a property owner is paid $1.50 per square foot of land when they remove landscaping that requires lots of watering. The yard is redone in a manner that does not use nearly as much water.
The mayor said the government then records a restriction on the property declaring that it is a part of the program. If a future landowner wants to replant the yard, they would be required to repay the money plus interest.
Williams said both himself and members of the Park City Council are interested in considering ideas for a local program based on the one in Las Vegas. He said discussions at City Hall could occur over next winter, and he would like the director of the program in Las Vegas to visit Park City to explain the details.
The mayor also noted a visit with officials at Zappos, an online clothing retailer based in Las Vegas. Williams said the firm is creating a community in downtown Las Vegas. He said the core values of Zappos are similar to those of the Park City government.
Mark J. Fischer, the developer preparing for a major redo of the Bonanza Park district, traveled with the group, saying Las Vegas is "focused on implementing a plan to revitalize downtown."
Fischer mentioned the Zappos presentation and said there are other redevelopments of interest. Fischer said leaders in Las Vegas "move at the pace of business," eliminating red tape and facilitating development.
"If some of that comes back to Park City, that would be wonderful," Fischer said.
Tour-goer Jesse Shetler, who owns the No Name Saloon and Butcher's Chop House, also noted a business-friendly attitude. He talked about the hospitality industry and drinking establishments and restaurants that serve alcohol particularly.
He said, as an example, city officials in Las Vegas removed what once was a $60,000 fee on liquor licenses. Government leaders there are "free and accepting" of business, including places that serve alcohol.
"You would think they are the ones who own the businesses and restaurants and shops," he said about the officials there.
The City Tour has been an annual event for years, visiting numerous mountain resorts in the region and other places. Las Vegas is the largest city the trip has visited. A roster of City Hall leaders and other government officials attend, as do business and not-for-profit leaders. Members of the Leadership Park City class also travel with the group. Leadership Park City is a yearlong course that prepares people to take on wider community roles.
The trips by the government officials are typically paid for with taxpayer money while others who travel either pay their own way or are paid for by their own organizations.
City Tour organizers and Park City leaders have long said the trips are worthwhile as a means to learn about competitors and find programs or policies that could be put in place locally.