City Hall-Talisker accord reached
February 29, 2008
The Park City Council crafted a deal Thursday night with Empire Pass developer Talikser Corp. that would end a tense impasse between the two sides and allow developers to again obtain building permits for work in the slopeside project in Deer Valley.
Mayor Dana Williams and the City Councilors considered numerous Empire Pass issues before agreeing, in principle, to a deal with Talisker that will require the developer to put up a financial guarantee as a pledge to build the project’s work force housing on a proper timeline.
The agreement will probably not be finalized until early April, but building permits could again be issued in Empire Pass before it is inked. City Hall officials say they are unsure how much money Talisker will be required to put up in the guarantee. There was talk of demanding $500,000 per unit as a guarantee, but Talikser balked, saying the figure is too high.
As part of the Thursday negotiations, the City Councilors said they would redo a longstanding report outlining the developer’s work force housing requirements. The change would loosen a timeline for the construction of the work force housing, and it will be the key part of the deal.
The report now says construction of the work force housing units is required based on when City Hall allows regularly priced units to open, even if, for instance, the landscaping is not finished. In those cases, the local government would issue what are known as temporary certificates of occupancy.
The change would delay the work force requirement until the regularly priced units are done and the city issues full certificates of occupancy, which are government documents indicating someone can move into a building permanently. It is unclear how much later the work force units would open under the proposed terms.
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"It’s a good step in the right direction," David Smith, the Talisker attorney who leads the company’s negotiations with City Hall, said afterward.
Smith refused to take questions.
The dispute unfolded after City Hall stopped issuing building permits in Empire Pass because, officials maintained, the developer did not build required work force units in a timely fashion. Five are built or under construction, but based on the number of regularly priced units the developers have put up, they should have 15 by now, city officials say.
City Hall’s refusal to issue building permits sparked uncertainty in Empire Pass, the largest development under construction in Park City. People with ties to Empire Pass, including developers besides Talisker, are worried their work will suffer as City Hall and Talisker try to reach an accord. City Hall was withholding one permit based on the dispute.
Some Empire Pass developers testified on Thursday about their projects being entangled in the City Hall-Talisker disagreement. Jack Koson, who is building the Ironwood neighborhood in Empire Pass, told Williams and the City Councilors the situation would be "absolutely catastrophic" if the dispute is not settled before homebuyers are ready to move in.
"I see grenades being lobbed between Talisker and town," he said.
The City Council meeting culminated two days of intense talks between the government and the developers, with the city’s Planning Commission holding a lengthy discussion about a Talisker idea to build a work force project on Marsac Avenue. Some neighbors are unhappy with the idea, saying the units do not fit on what they say is an already cramped corridor. The project would count toward Talikser’s work force housing requirements, as would a plan to build a sizable development of work force units near Quinn’s Junction.
Some City Councilors were indignant on Thursday as they negotiated with Talisker, wondering why the developer did not stick to a timeline for the work force housing that was agreed to years ago.
City Councilor Roger Harlan, who was on the panel in the 1990s, when many of the critical Empire Pass decisions were made, was especially bewildered. He said he is "astounded" Talisker has not progressed further on its work force requirements.
"In my lifetime will we ever get it built," Harlan said, telling Smith and other Talisker officials at the meeting they should have understood the timeline for the work force housing years ago.