Discussions about Treasure development quietly restart
May 14, 2013
Representatives from City Hall and the Treasure partnership in recent weeks began meeting regularly for the first time since last fall, a high-ranking municipal staffer said in an interview, an indication that there could be movement upcoming in the long-running talks about the project.
Jonathan Weidenhamer, who directs City Hall’s economic development programs and is assigned to the Treasure discussions, did not provide details about the meetings that have occurred recently. He called them "weekly updates" and "progress reports."
It seems likely Weidenhamer and possibly at least one elected official have represented the City Hall side. The Treasure partnership has typically been represented by a member of the Sweeney family and someone in attendance on behalf of the family’s partner.
The discussions have been held behind closed doors as the sides attempt to reach an agreement on a development blueprint for the Treasure acreage itself as well as the prospects of shifting some of the development rights attached to the Treasure land to another location.
"We want to get it resolved," Weidenhamer said, adding, "It continues to be a priority."
The Treasure land sits on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family secured development rights on the Treasure land and nearby parcels in the 1980s, building on some of the land in the years since. The Treasure development itself, seen as upward of 1 million square feet, is the most significant part of the overall approval.
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Discussions between the Treasure partnership and the Park City Planning Commission about the project started in 2004, but there has only been moderate progress in the nine-plus years.
The Planning Commission and Park City residents, particularly those living along Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue, have deep-rooted concerns about the project. The critics have contended neighborhood roads cannot adequately handle the traffic Treasure is expected to attract and claim the buildings would loom over Old Town.
The Treasure side, though, disagrees with the assertions of the opposition and says the project would boost business on Main Street and improve the ski terrain that leads from the Park City Mountain Resort slopes to Main Street.
As the discussions with the Planning Commission faltered, the elected officials and top City Hall staffers engaged the Treasure side in unorthodox negotiations meant to end the logjam.
The talks at various points involved discussions about a taxpayer-funded buyout of the development rights. That idea was scrapped after the price was set at more than $90 million.
Since then, the sides have focused on the possibility of shifting some of the development rights from the Treasure site to somewhere that is seen as more suitable for growth.
Some of the private discussions between the teams have looked at the idea of keeping half of the development rights at the Treasure site and shifting the other half elsewhere. It appears that idea will be continue to be researched.
Ed Sweeney, one of the family’s representatives, declined to provide details during a recent interview.
"We’re in discussions, ongoing discussions. We keep meeting every week," Sweeney said, calling them "productive meetings."
Some of the elected officials in February listed Treasure as a high priority for City Hall’s work plan in 2013. During a wide-ranging meeting, three of the six elected officials — Mayor Dana Williams, City Councilman Alex Butwinski and City Councilman Andy Beerman — listed Treasure among their top priorities.
The project was also listed as No. 2 out of 55 items labeled as "action ideas for 2013" that month. The No. 2 ranking, though, does not necessarily signal Treasure is the second most important issue to the elected officials.
Butwinski said in an interview the elected officials want the major issues of Treasure resolved in 2013. He said he wants the "uncertainty out of where we’re going from here."
The mayor was not available for comment early in the week. It is likely Williams agrees with the desire for progress this year. Williams, a three-term mayor, is not seeking re-election and will leave office in early January. Treasure remains one of the highest-profile unfinished pieces of City Hall business during his nearly 12 years in office.