One of the concerns of the opponents to SkiLink, the proposed Canyons Resort-to-Solitude Mountain Resort gondola, is the connection could spur development along the route.
The land is now undeveloped and under the ownership of the United States Forest Service. If it is sold to Talisker Corp.-controlled Canyons Resort, the opponents worry, it would be opened to development beyond SkiLink itself.
But in an interview after a recent forum about SkiLink held in the Snyderville Basin, one of the key figures on the Talisker Corp.-Canyons Resort side said there are no intentions to develop real estate along the route. Talisker Corp. has been an aggressive developer since its entry into the Park City market in the past decade, with projects including parts of Empire Pass in Deer Valley.
Mike Goar, who is the managing director of Canyons Resort and the person who has publicly represented Talisker Corp. in the SkiLink discussions, said in an interview the Forest Service land that is desired for SkiLink will not be built upon beyond what is needed for the gondola.
"We're committed to not having any development along that Forest Service parcel," Goar said, adding, "No residential, no commercial, no ski infrastructure beyond the lift towers."
Goar mentioned Talisker Corp.'s disinterest in development along the route during the recent forum, but the SkiLink side did not dwell on the topic as it faced a large crowd of critics of the link.
Goar said the proposed SkiLink corridor will not be wide enough for development and he said it does not involve enough land for some sort of residential or commercial project. He also said the closest privately held land along SkiLink is not contiguous to the route.
He said, however, there is the potential for further development on the Canyons Resort side terminal of SkiLink. That land is not under the control of the Forest Service and is within the existing Colony development, he said.
Talisker Corp. and Solitude Mountain Resort face widespread opposition to SkiLink in the Park City area and along the Wasatch Front. The critics have outlined a series of concerns, including the impact on the backcountry and the potential effects on the Salt Lake Valley's watershed.
The SkiLink side, though, contends that the connection will reduce traffic between the Park City area and the resorts in Big Cottonwood Canyon as well as boosting the tourism industry. The backers say SkiLink will be an economic boon for the state's skiing industry and lead to the creation of jobs.
SkiLink hinges on the decision of the federal government regarding the Forest Service land, and it is not clear when the final votes will be cast. It has the support of Utah's largely Republican congressional delegation.
Goar said there are options for the SkiLink land that would allow the connection to proceed, including an outright purchase of the acreage or a long-term lease. Dollar figures attached to either of the options have not been publicized.
Goar said if Talisker Corp. eventually purchases the land outright, the firm would consider protecting the parcel through some sort of conservation method. He said something known as a conservation easement could be placed on the land.
Under a conservation easement, the acreage remains with the landholder, but the owner agrees it will not be developed. A third party like a land bank typically enforces a conservation easement. Large tracts of protected land in Park City and surrounding Summit County are under conservation easement restrictions.