Park City reaches $38 million deal for treasured Bonanza Flats
Acquisition will be a crowning achievement in conservation program
January 13, 2017
City Hall has reached a $38 million deal to acquire the long-sought acreage of Bonanza Flats, a high-altitude piece of ground just outside the city limits that conservationists have treasured for decades.
It will be one of the crowning acquisitions in Park City's conservation program. The deal quickly won broad praise from activists as the Park City Council on Thursday night, to applause, unanimously approved an option agreement with the landowner, a firm called Redus, LLC.
The $38 million price tag makes Bonanza Flats the most expensive acquisition in the history of Park City's open space program. Park City voters in November authorized a $25 million ballot measure with the hope that a deal could be reached to acquire Bonanza Flats. The remaining $13 million, though, must be raised in coming months.
"All of us here have a special relationship with this land," Mayor Jack Thomas said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The land encompasses 1,350 acres in Wasatch County and is situated downhill from Guardsman Pass. Conservationists and developers have prized the land for years. Developers have considered golf-and-ski projects on Bonanza Flats while conservationists have envisioned the land being set aside instead. Park City officials have said in recent months a developer was interested in acquiring Bonanza Flats for a high-end project.
Bonanza Flats was historically held by United Park City Mines, the modern-day successor to the historic silver-mining industry, and later came under the control of the Talisker corporate family. Lenders took over the property and some others held by the Talisker corporate family in a broad foreclosure case. The seller is a firm called Redus, LLC. It is tied to Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions, L.P., the lenders that brought the foreclosure case.
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Park City leaders saw the foreclosure as an opportunity to approach the lenders about the prospects of a conservation deal, putting a bond on the ballot to ensure there was voter authorization should an agreement be reached. Voters approved the $25 million ballot measure overwhelmingly just more than two months ago. The deal was not made public until it appeared on a City Council agenda early in the week.
"Wells Fargo strongly supports the preservation of the Bonanza Flats property," Daniel Bartok, a Wells Fargo executive vice president, said in a prepared statement released by City Hall. "We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Park City that will benefit the entire community."
A representative of the seller who attended the City Council meeting declined further comment.
Park City agreed to make a $1.5 million option payment as a result of the vote on Thursday. The closing date planned for March 15, meaning the remainder of the $38 million must be paid. City Hall in the agreement, though, negotiated a second option, also pegged at $1.5 million. The second option would extend the closing date until June 15.
The timeline leaves just months for the additional $13 million to be raised. Park City will work with a coalition of government entities and not-for-profit organizations to mount a fundraising campaign. Representatives from a group of high-profile organizations appeared at the press conference to pledge their support to the effort. Wendy Fisher, who leads the not-for-profit Utah Open Lands and is a longtime conservation advocate, said preserving Bonanza Flats is "critically important" for Park City and the Wasatch Front. Carl Fisher, the executive director of Save Our Canyons, said the deal presents the opportunity to "once and for all protect this place."
Roger Armstrong, a member of the Summit County Council, also attended on Thursday in support of the acquisition. His presence was important since it is highly likely the County Courthouse will be involved as the $13 million is raised. In an interview, Armstrong said he anticipates Summit County will be "one of several participants" as the remaining funding is finalized. Armstrong said there is funding available through a voter-approved bond in the Snyderville Basin that included monies for open space as well as regular County Courthouse funding.
"We haven't finalized a deal yet," he said about the involvement of the County Courthouse. "We're discussing the amount and the mechanism."
Property taxes will increase
The November ballot measure approved by voters in Park City was meant to raise funds for the acquisition of Bonanza Flats with the pledge that the bonds would not be sold if a deal was not reached.
City Hall anticipates it will sell the bonds in May, making the funds available in June. If the bonds are sold in May, the increase in property taxes would be reflected on bills that will be due Nov. 1.
Someone who owns a primary home would pay an additional $15.15 for each $100,000 of assessed value. The owner of a vacation home or a commercial property would pay another $27.54 per each $100,000 in assessed value. The bonds would be paid off over a 15-year span.