The Park Record editorial, November 14-17, 2009 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, November 14-17, 2009

'We're from the government and we're here to help you'

Park City taxpayers had only 48 hours to digest the fact that their elected officials were planning to plunk down $5.5 million for a 50 percent interest in a controversial development on the outskirts of town before a perfunctory public hearing and a well-orchestrated unanimous vote. suppertime on Thursday, they were the proud half-owners of the proposed Park Heights project at Quinn’s Junction and bedfellows with The Boyer Company.

While relatively small matters like the location of a dog park are often noticed, work-sessioned and publicly debated for months before a vote is taken, the Park City Heights purchase was a surprise slam dunk. It is interesting that this city council — which prides itself on transparency — chose to keep the precedent-setting deal a secret until the last legal minute.

Yes, governments are given the discretion to negotiate property transactions behind closed doors, but that doesn’t mean they have carte blanche to circumvent the public process, especially in a deal of this magnitude.

First of all, the purchase is disconcerting because it obligates the city to come up with another $5.5 million to buy the rest of the property from the developer if the two partners can’t come up with a mutually agreeable development plan within two years. In this economy it seems fair to ask: What’s to keep The Boyer Company from sandbagging the whole project just to unload it on the city for $11 million?

Secondly, the city’s decision step into the role of developer is one that citizens should have had an opportunity to study before the deal was sealed. For instance, what will other developers say when they can’t get their projects approved as quickly as Boyer does? And which developers will be allowed to transfer their affordable-housing requirements to the city’s project, and which ones will be forced to build their own?

The secret negotiations with Boyer must have been ongoing during the recent mayoral and council campaign and call into question Mayor Dana Williams’ commitment to "open" and "participatory" government. In fact, the done-deal on Thursday’s agenda smacks of exactly the kind of backroom dealing for which Williams and his supporters berated their opponent. Apparently, though, Williams and the council weren’t interested in whether their constituents thought their money might be better spent on something else. Some might have said the money would be better spent buying down part of Treasure, or buying one of the vacant buildings on Main Street.

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Based on this week’s actions, local citizens may be in for a bad case of voters’ remorse.

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