Treasure sticker shock? mayor won’t say | ParkRecord.com

Treasure sticker shock? mayor won’t say

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

City Hall through the end of the week guarded the price tag set by the Sweeney family and its partner for a full buyout of the development rights attached to the Treasure land, acknowledging the release could come shortly after a meeting between the sides scheduled on Monday.

The Sweeney side early this week delivered the price tag to City Hall. Park City officials have indicated the number would be made public, but it remains uncertain when it will be released.

Mayor Dana Williams, one of City Hall’s negotiators, said in an interview Thursday night a schedule for the release has not been finalized. He said the negotiating teams representing Treasure and City Hall plan to gather Monday morning to discuss the price tag. The mayor said the Monday meeting will be the first opportunity for the sides to discuss the figure together.

"The developer needs to hear from us what the Council and mayor’s opinion of the price was, before that is made public," Williams said.

He said he wants the number to be released through a joint statement between City Hall and the Treasure side. That statement would be issued early next week under the mayor’s preferred timeline. He said he wants the number made public as soon as practical.

The figure was provided to the elected officials during a closed-door session on Thursday, the mayor said. The Sweeney family and its New York City-based business partner crafted the dollar figure.

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State law allows public bodies like a city council to discuss land deals behind closed doors. Williams said a handful of City Hall staffers and City Councilman-elect Andy Beerman were also provided the price tag. Beerman, who takes office in early January, has participated in closed-door City Council sessions since his Election Day victory.

The mayor said he is "not comfortable answering that yet" when asked whether there will be sticker shock in the community when the figure is made public. He declined to discuss his prediction for the sort of public reaction that will follow the release.

The number is expected to reach into the tens of millions of dollars on the low end. The price tag will likely make it the most expensive conservation deal ever negotiated by City Hall. The money would be raised through a ballot measure asking voters to approve an increase in property taxes. Park City voters since the late 1990s have approved three conservation bonds totaling $40 million. That money has been spent, necessitating another ballot measure to finance a deal for Treasure.

It is not clear what immediate opportunities there will be for Parkites to comment on the price tag. The final City Council meeting of the year was on Thursday. The first one of 2012 is slated for Jan. 5.

The release of the price tag will be the most significant moment of the long running negotiations about a conservation deal. The number will likely embolden the supporters as well as the opponents of an agreement. The supporters see a deal as a means to protect a high-profile hillside from development. Opponents, though, will be displeased with the prospects of a property-tax increase. Some will probably argue that Treasure is neighborhood dispute rather than a citywide issue.

The City Council later would need to decide whether to put a ballot measure to voters. That decision itself will split Parkites between the various Treasure camps. The Treasure land is situated on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift.

The Sweeney family secured the Treasure development rights as part of an overall approval in the 1980s involving the Treasure acreage and nearby pieces of land. The project, as it was brought to the Park City Planning Commission, encompasses 1 million square feet of development. The Planning Commission talks stalled amid worries about the traffic Treasure would attract and the size of the buildings, among other topics.

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