Not only did Phillips, a real estate developer who owns shopping centers throughout the United States, give a generous donation to help preserve an easement on the Osguthorpe Ranch land, located in southern Round Valley off S.R. 248, to preserve it as open space, he also helped lead the Conservancy to raise the remaining $1 million needed to purchase the easement, said Cheryl Fox, Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director.
"He was very instrumental in the success of our campaign," Fox said. "When you are doing a fundraising campaign, you have to have someone who trusts you and says, 'This is important. I think this needs to happen.' And Mike was that guy who stepped up and said, 'I'm going to help.'"
Phillips gave parties at his house to discuss the easement, and went to other people's homes and explained why securing the easement was important.
"We feel like we do a lot of great work to save open space, but without our partners, like fabulous landowners and individuals in the community, we wouldn't be able to save open space. So that's why we give this award," Fox said.
The Osguthorpe land had development potential for up to 120 units.
"If that development had been permitted to go in, it would have fundamentally damaged the rest of the open space on the rest of Round Valley, which the community has spent $36 million preserving," Fox said. "So we have a huge investment in Round Valley and we think it's pretty important to make sure this piece also remained open space."
The Osguthorpe family wanted to preserve the land as open space, as did Park City Municipal, Fox said. The land had an appraisal value of $8.9 million, but the family lowered the price to $5.7 million. However, Park City Municipal could still only offer $4.7 million. The family and the city then came to the Conservancy in 2010 and asked if they could raise the last $1 million. The Conservancy had two years to raise the money interest-free, with a Feb. 20, 2012 due date.
"In many situations, families can get a tax break for doing this, but due to the way this land was owned, the family did not receive a tax break benefit. So the family took a huge hit and also allowed the community two years to raise the last $1 million. So the family was incredibly generous," Fox said.
After a lot of angst, Fox said the Conservancy agreed. "And we did it. We raised the $1 million."
Phillips said he was interested in preserving the easement because of its visibility off S.R. 248 when people are driving into Park City.
"I don't really think anyone wanted to see development," Phillips said. "As a developer, I was looking at it in terms of, is the density they are proposing from a residential standpoint really appropriate for that size of a parcel? And the density was just too intense. It didn't seem like the appropriate place to put that density into the community."
Phillips himself lives in the neighborhood of the parcel, and said he uses it and the surrounding Round Valley area all the time for recreation.
"It's always been a park-like setting, and it's contiguous to all the property that is in Round Valley," Phillips said. "With the Osguthorpe piece that we put the easement on, they now have trails that connect from Round Valley through that property."
With the easement preserved, when people drive through the area or recreate in Round Valley, they can enjoy the park-like setting of the land, instead of seeing "a bunch of condominiums," Phillips said.
While he was honored and surprised to receive the award, Phillips said he only helped because it was the right thing to do.
"I was helpful, but it was really their organization that pushed this through, got me to the right places and helped me do what I needed to do to help them raise the money," Phillips said, adding that he plans to continue to be involved with the Summit Land Conservancy in the future.
"That's an organization that would have any community proud to have working with them on the open space," Phillips said.