Park City outlines land deal in cordial visit with Wasatch County
Bonanza Flats roads, public access addressed at introductory meeting
March 3, 2017
A delegation from Park City spoke to the Wasatch County Council on Wednesday about City Hall's anticipated acquisition of Bonanza Flats acreage for conservation purposes, a cordial meeting that was the first in what will likely be a series of gatherings between the two jurisdictions centered on the land.
Three Park City officials – Mayor Jack Thomas, Tom Daley, who is a City Hall attorney, and Heinrich Deters, the trails and open space manager – appeared before Wasatch County's elected leadership with a map of the high-altitude Bonanza Flats on display in the background. Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, accompanied the Park City officials to Heber City.
Bonanza Flats is a long-prized tract of land covering 1,350 acres in Wasatch County downhill from Guardsman Pass just south of the Park City limits. Developers and conservationists have coveted the land for years. City Hall in January reached a $38 million agreement with the landowner, a firm called Redus, LLC, to acquire Bonanza Flats. Park City voters authorized $25 million for the acquisition and supporters of the deal are attempting to raise the rest of the money. Summit County leaders recently pledged $5.75 million.
The Park City delegation used the meeting on Wednesday to introduce the planned acquisition of Bonanza Flats to the Wasatch County leadership. The Wasatch County officials hold an important role in oversight of the land in zoning and other matters that will be of importance to City Hall as the eventual landowner.
"We want to be good neighbors," the mayor told the County Council, describing City Hall as "charging forward" with the acquisition and that the fundraising efforts are going well.
Thomas also described that a conservation acquisition of Bonanza Flats would be environmentally significant in Wasatch County since it would provide protection for the watershed. City Hall will be expected to craft a set of restrictions on the land meant to ensure that it remains undeveloped. The document, known as a conservation easement, has not been finalized, Thomas said.
In her comments to the County Council, Fisher noted there have been numerous residents of Wasatch County contributing to the fundraising efforts.
The Wasatch County officials asked a series of what appeared to be preliminary questions after the Park City-side presentations. The leaders in Wasatch County – elected officials and staffers – will likely make more detailed inquiries later, as Park City completes the conservation easement.
One of the County Councilors, Mike Petersen, asked the Park City officials about the possibilities of City Hall restricting access as well as whether vehicles will be able to use the roads in Bonanza Flats. The mayor said Park City will defer to Wasatch County.
"We have no intention of jumping into the role you all have with regard to that," Thomas said, adding, "It is indeed a county road, and we respect that."
Deters told the County Council Park City's goal is to keep Bonanza Flats as it is now. He said an environmental study will be conducted after the acquisition is finalized, though.
Kendall Crittenden, another County Councilor, also pressed the Park City officials about ensuring Bonanza Flats is public acreage.
"Access needs to be open to everybody," he said.
Mike Davis, who is the Wasatch County manager, also mentioned the presence of roads in Bonanza Flats and said parking will be of interest. He noted Wasatch County agencies are responsible for providing emergency services in Bonanza Flats and said that county will seek assistance from Park City. He explained that tax revenues will not be raised to fund emergency services as a result of City Hall acquiring the land for conservation purposes instead the acreage being developed.
Davis said there is sensitivity in Wasatch County about City Hall acquiring Bonanza Flats since 70 percent of the land in the county is already under public ownership. Land that is owned by a government does not generate tax revenues.
There was also a brief discussion about the prospects of Wasatch County assisting financially with the acquisition. It was in response to a question by Petersen. Fisher told him there are a number of jurisdictions that use Bonanza Flats and there is an effort to raise funds in those places. She said the fundraising does not anticipate requesting monies from Wasatch County.
City Hall has long coveted Bonanza Flats for conservation purposes. The acquisition will be one of the crowning achievements of the municipal government's open space program. But developers have also prized the acreage for years, seeing the possibility of a golf-and-ski project on the land. Park City officials see the acquisition as something that will advance the conservation efforts in addition to checking a major development at the municipal borders.