City Hall leaders and figures in the Park City business community said on Friday they are encouraged Park City Mountain Resort and Talisker Land Holdings, LLC requested more time for mediation as they attempt to settle a lawsuit centered on the terrain underlying most of the resort's slopes.
Government officials and businesspeople said the request for an extension appears to be a sign that a settlement is possible through mediation. Judge Ryan Harris, the 3rd District Court judge presiding over the case, set a Friday deadline when he ordered the sides into mediation in June.
"I'm more optimistic and less depressed," Park City Councilor Liza Simpson said about the Friday request to the judge.
Simpson on Friday was serving as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Jack Thomas. Simpson said the request for more time was "very encouraging."
"They're still talking to each other," Simpson said.
Park City Manager Diane Foster said an extension signals that the two sides have not reached an impasse in the mediation.
"If they're still talking, they're not in a stalemate," Foster said.
The city manager also said she is pleased the sides did not request an extension on other important dates in the case that are fast approaching.
There has been increasing concern in recent weeks, at City Hall and the wider community, about the potential impact of the case on the 2014-2015 ski season. The judge has signed a de facto eviction order against PCMR, sending the sides into mediation at the same time he signaled he would sign the order.
Businesspeople are worried that Park City's economy would be hit hard if PCMR does not open during the upcoming ski season as a result of the case. Seven longtime Park City business or government figures in July outlined their concerns in a letter to top-ranking figures at PCMR parent Powdr Corp. and Vail Resorts.
The Colorado firm is overseeing the lawsuit on behalf of Talisker Land Holdings, LLC as part of a long-term deal to operate the Talisker corporate family-owned Canyons Resort. The deal could be extended to include the disputed terrain at PCMR depending on the outcome of the case.
Hans Fuegi, a restaurateur who also has commercial real estate holdings in Park City, was one of the figures who signed the July letter. He said on Friday the request to extend the mediation shows the sides have not abandoned the efforts to reach a settlement.
"It's good to know they are talking," Fuegi said.
He added that he hopes for an agreement "sooner rather than later."
Businessman Jan Wilking also signed the letter, saying on Friday it is a "positive" signal that the sides want more time for mediation.
"They must be making some progress to ask for more time," Wilking said, adding, "If they were totally at loggerheads . . . my assumption is one of them would say this is a waste of time."