Park City mayor: resorts are not the bad guys | ParkRecord.com

Park City mayor: resorts are not the bad guys

Panel addresses Vail Resorts’ role in growing area

Park City Manager Diane Foster addresses the crowd during a Monday forum about growth alongside Mayor Jack Thomas, left, and Park Record columnist Tom Clyde. The city manager said the mountain resorts have been good partners with City Hall.

Jack Thomas, the mayor of Park City, on Monday evening told an audience Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort are "pretty fundamental" to the community as he spoke about their role in the local economy, an undeniable summary of the impact of the ski industry on the community but one that was made amid broad uneasiness about growth in the Park City area.

Thomas was one of the panelists at a Snyderville Basin forum centered on growth organized by the issues group Project for Deeper Understanding. The event drew approximately 80 people to St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The panelists covered numerous topics related to growth, but the comments about the resort industry, prompted by an audience question, were some of the most intriguing.

As he spoke about the resort industry, the mayor recalled that the community was "scared to death" during the high-profile lawsuit that resulted in the sale of PCMR to Vail Resorts. There were fears that PCMR might not open for a ski season as the lawsuit continued.

"I'm not going to paint them as the bad guy in this situation," Thomas said about the resort industry's role in growth.

The mayor, though, also said City Hall will hold the resorts accountable, including through the municipal government's planning and zoning processes.

Diane Foster, the Park City manager and another panelist on Monday evening, said the municipal government and the resorts work well together. On a busy day, she said, up to 30 text messages are sent between City Hall staffers and figures at the resorts as they address issues that arise unexpectedly. She also noted the discussions as the sides worked through a complicated sales-tax question as PCMR and Canyons Resort were merged into a single property.

"They have been part of the solution and they have been a good partner," Foster said.

Panelist Chris Robinson, the chair of the Summit County Council, meanwhile, said Vail Resorts as well as other businesses need to assist as solutions are crafted for community issues. He mentioned parking and work force or otherwise restricted housing as two topics of note to the County Courthouse and the business community.

The discussion about Vail Resorts and the area's wider resort community was in response to a question from audience member Mike Andrews, a retired Park City High School principal who closely follows Park City-area issues. He told the panel Vail Resorts should assist in solving problems since the firm, according to Andrews, had a role in creating the issues.

Neither Vail Resorts nor PCMR was represented on the panel, and it was not clear whether PCMR or Vail Resorts officials were present.

The Project for Deeper Understanding forum was held as many in the Park City area continue to have concerns about a post-recession boom period that has led to complaints about traffic, development and other growth-related issues even as the local economy has performed impressively. Many of the issues discussed on Monday evening were topics that are regularly addressed by Park City and Summit County leaders. The panelists talked about taxes, City Hall's housing program and the employment picture for the area.

Some of the highlights of the panelist comments included:

  • Thomas saying Park City generates numerous employment opportunities, but many of the positions do not pay high wages. He said Park City is "not a Silicon Valley."
  • Robinson telling the audience that issues spread across jurisdictional lines and that Summit County must work with Park City and Wasatch County as solutions are crafted.
  • Foster describing that people in Park City like special events but do not want the related traffic. She said officials have "heard from the community that they're done" as she cited special events.
  • Tom Fisher, the Summit County manager, saying sales taxes, which are an important source of government revenue, can vary. Sales-tax revenues are dependent on the economy, he explained in response to another panelist's comment that sales taxes support the area's lifestyle.
  • Jeff Jones, the economic development director for Summit County, indicating the development pace in the county remains down from pre-recession numbers. Employment numbers, though, are increasing. He argued traffic is directly related to the employment growth instead of development.
  • Tom Clyde, a Park Record columnist and former City Hall attorney, contending that Park City spent 35 years "replicating every possible mistake" made by Aspen, Colo., a competing resort community that has for years influenced some Park City decisions.