Park City panel taps gas pedal on Treasure traffic
Later meetings about pivotal topic expected to be intense
May 12, 2017
The sides involved in the Treasure proposal on Wednesday evening addressed the traffic the project is expected to generate, but none of them really pressed the gas pedal during a meeting that was more subdued than anticipated.
The Park City Planning Commission, missing three of its seven members for the meeting, did not appear prepared to delve into the details of traffic, which is expected to be one of the most difficult topics of the discussions about the disputed development application. The Treasure opposition also did not seem ready to address the details.
The meeting on Wednesday drew a small crowd, but the crowd size and the subdued tone likely did not offer a preview of the upcoming talks about Treasure-related traffic since there are widespread concerns that cars headed to and from the project will overwhelm streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue as well as intersections in the vicinity of the site. The opposition has made numerous statements of concern about traffic during the years of the Treasure discussions even as the developers have consistently maintained the roads can accommodate the traffic when coupled with the transportation and road improvements proposed as part of the project.
The Treasure proposal involves approximately 1 million square feet on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The land is off streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue.
The Treasure development partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, presented the results of a much-anticipated study of traffic based on a count of cars during the busy Presidents Day weekend. A report drafted by a consultant of the developer found the roads are adequate for the Treasure traffic in combination with the broader transportation and roadwork plans.
City Hall staffers had not conducted a detailed review of the study by the time of the meeting on Wednesday and did not present a rundown of the numbers. The City Hall review of the study results will be an important piece of information at a later meeting focused on traffic. The topic is anticipated to be addressed at a Planning Commission meeting on June 12.
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Francisco Astorga, the City Hall planner assigned to Treasure, told the Planning Commission staffers had "just barely started" the review. Astorga said the Park City engineer and City Hall's transportation planner will be involved. Astorga, responding to a question from a Planning Commissioner, said City Hall is considering drafting an outside traffic engineer to assist with the review of the traffic study.
The Treasure side, meanwhile, focused its presentation on efforts it will employ to cut traffic. The traffic-reducing possibilities have been discussed publicly before and involve a people mover known as a cabriolet and improvements to ski runs that will make it easier for someone to ski to and from the project rather than driving.
Gary Horton, the Treasure traffic engineer, called the cabriolet a "personal people mover." The cabriolet is designed to link the Town Lift Plaza, which is controlled by the Sweeney family, and the core of Treasure. It is meant to provide nonvehicle access between Main Street and the project.
Horton also told the Planning Commission intersections like the one at Empire Avenue and Silver King Drive need to be improved regardless of whether Treasure is developed. The traffic study pinpointed numbers at a series of intersections expected to be impacted by Treasure-related traffic. The count of vehicles was taken over the busy Presidents Day weekend.
Members of the Planning Commission had scattered questions during the presentation. The panel is expected to have many more queries, and more pointed ones, at the later meeting.
John Phillips, a Planning Commissioner, questioned whether the commercial space of Treasure requires lots of associated parking spaces since people patronizing the businesses there would be at the site already.
Melissa Band, another Planning Commissioner, asked about incentives for employees meant to discourage them from driving to work. Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure discussions, told her "obviously, it's challenging." He said an effective incentive is monetary, meaning there could be rewards for workers who do not drive. Sweeney did not provide details.
The Planning Commission meeting did not draw the large crowds of past ones centered on Treasure. It seems that the crowds could return for the June meeting if the anticipated detailed traffic discussion is scheduled. A hearing on Wednesday lasted just a few minutes. Nikki Deforge, an attorney representing an opposition group known as the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, told the Planning Commission the group will wait to provide detailed comments about the traffic study. She said the group wants to review the City Hall staff report that will be prepared in response to the traffic study.
In an interview after the meeting, Deforge questioned whether the Treasure side's plans to reduce traffic will be as effective as the developer envisions. She said, as an example, the prospects of the cabriolet reducing traffic significantly is "based on speculation." Deforge said the group is concerned about "the assumptions that were made" and said there are flaws in the traffic study. Deforge plans to draft a written response to the study results.
"I anticipate a long meeting with a number of hard questions for the developer," she said about the June gathering of the Planning Commission.
Planning Commission chair Adam Strachan said in an interview after the meeting he wants the Treasure side at the June meeting to provide a "comprehensive display of what they believe what the traffic problems are and how they mitigate them."
Strachan also said he wants the developers to delineate differences between traffic reports or addendums to the reports drafted over the decade-plus of the Treasure discussions. He mentioned documents dating to 2003, 2004 and 2005.
"Are we supposed to just take all the old studies and assume all the assumptions of the old studies still stand," he asked. "Which assumptions did you make in the old report we should assume carry forward to today, if any?"