Look for the open space on Park City’s ballot | ParkRecord.com

Look for the open space on Park City’s ballot

by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

Voters inside Park City on Election Day will pick their favorite politicians.

They will also decide whether they want to give City Hall a chance to pick up a long desired swath of land just outside the Park City's borders.

The Park City ballot includes a $25 million ballot measure that, if passed, would be put toward an effort to acquire the high-altitude acreage known as Bonanza Flats. The land covers approximately 1,400 acres in Wasatch County south of the Park City limits.

Park City leaders in the summer opted to put the bond on the ballot, acknowledging that City Hall has not negotiated an agreement to acquire Bonanza Flats. It is not known whether the land will ever be made available to the municipal government in a conservation deal. Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council say they want voters to authorize the $25 million to ensure there is a funding source readily available should an agreement be reached to acquire the land.

City Hall would not issue the bonds if a deal is not reached. If one is negotiated, all of the $25 million worth of bonds would likely be needed to fund the acquisition. If the bonds are issued, officials have estimated, someone owning a primary residence valued at $810,000 would pay $122.67 more in property taxes annually while a person who owns a vacation home or a commercial property with an $810,000 value would pay $223.05 more each year. The bond would be paid off over 15 years.

Park City leaders hope other public bodies will assist with financing a deal, but it is not known as Election Day approaches whether any will commit funding to a Bonanza Flats acquisition. A consortium of not-for-profit organizations involved in land, trails and environmental issues has launched a campaign to raise funds that could be put toward an acquisition, though.

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Bonanza Flats, a popular recreation spot, is owned by a firm under the umbrella of Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions. They were the lenders that brought a foreclosure case against the Talisker corporate family that involved a series of parcels of land in the greater Park City region, including Bonanza Flats.

An acquisition of Bonanza Flats would be one of City Hall's great conservation accomplishments, a swath of land that has been of interest to Park City leaders for more than 20 years.

The land was once under the ownership of United Park City Mines, and it was a key chip in the 1990s-era negotiations that led to the development of Empire Pass in Deer Valley. At one point in those talks, United Park City Mines, which later came under the Talisker corporate umbrella, envisioned setting Bonanza Flats aside from development as part of a larger agreement with Park City leaders regarding Empire Pass.

An agreement, though, was never reached that preserved Bonanza Flats as open space. City Hall instead secured a development cap of 260 units in Bonanza Flats as part of the Empire Pass agreement. A project has not materialized for Bonanza Flats, which has been seen over the years as the potential location of a golf-and-ski development.

The future of Bonanza Flats took on greater urgency in the summer amid talk that a high-end developer, known as Discovery Land Company, is interested in the acreage as well.

"I have grave concern, as do all the City Council, about development potential in Bonanza Flats," Tim Henney, a member of the City Council, said in August.

City Hall crafted a one-page argument for official publication in support of the Bonanza Flats ballot measure. The statement stresses that the consequences of development could impact Park City's quality of life. It also explains that access to Bonanza Flats would become private if it is developed. Nobody submitted a statement for official publication in opposition.

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