It was late in the morning on Jan. 17, 2009 when Steve Joyce pressed the send button on an email to City Hall.
Joyce's message went to Katie Cattan, the planner who was assigned to the disputed Treasure development proposal at the time. It was one of many messages officials received during one of the peaks in the discussions about the project, envisioned as upward of 1 million square feet of development on land overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The opposition by then had already spent nearly five years stressing issues like traffic and the size of the proposed buildings as reasons the project should be rejected as designed.
Joyce added his take on Treasure, which then was referred to as Treasure Hill. His message and others were attached to a report about Treasure released in anticipation of a Feb. 11, 2009 meeting of the Park City Planning Commission. He mentioned traffic and the look of the project in his message. He said the Park City community was "already plagued" with traffic, large retailers like Walmart and the loss of the image of a mining town.
"Now I am beginning to see progress on what appears to be the biggest blight yet: Treasure Hill," Joyce said in the message.
Nearly five years after the message, Joyce was appointed to the seven-person Park City Planning Commission. He took his seat on the panel in January. The term lasts until July of 2017. It seems almost certain that the Planning Commission will cast a vote on Treasure during his term. It would be one of the most closely watched decisions by the panel in years, perhaps since the controversial decisions about what would be developed as Empire Pass in Deer Valley.
The Joyce email is strongly worded in sections as he argues against the project. He mentions the Planning Commission by name in one sentence.
"I hope that the planning commission will be responsible in protecting the town of Park City. Treasure Hill should be scaled back so that isn't such a giant blemish on such a visible piece of town," the message says. "Just designing the buildings with pretty architectural details isn't enough. They should fit the appearance and scale of Old Town."
The project would be built on "probably the most visible piece of mountain in Park City," he says, noting its proximity to Main Street.
"The plans I have seen result in that mountainside being torn up and replaced with large buildings, completely inconsistent with anything in that part of town," the message says.
He also says the developers should be "forced to offer a SOLUTION to the additional traffic they would add. Not a patch. Not an excuse. A solution." Joyce, meanwhile, challenges the members of the Planning Commission at the time to drive the roads in the vicinity of the Treasure site.
"Pick a nice snowy day and drive around as PCMR is letting out. Try getting somewhere, like Prospector. Now imagine living in that area and having to contend with that every day," he says. "Worse, picture an emergency vehicle trying to pick its way through that traffic. Now add a few hundred more cars. What a disaster."
The talks between the developer and the Planning Commission stalled. The panel had deep-rooted concerns about the project, some of them similar to the issues broached in the Joyce letter and by others.
The Treasure development partnership and City Hall later unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement that would have shifted some of the development rights attached to the Treasure acreage to another site deemed more suitable for growth. Those discussions stretched from the spring of 2010 until recent weeks, when the sides acknowledged the talks collapsed. The Treasure partnership intends to return to the Planning Commission with the same development proposal that was criticized earlier. Those meetings are expected to start in coming months.
In an interview, Joyce said he learned about Treasure through an open house and a walking tour of the land hosted by the Sweeney family, the historic owner of the property. As a member of the Planning Commission, Joyce said, he will fairly consider the Treasure development proposal regardless of the opinions he outlined in the 2009 message. He said the message was part of his efforts to be a "good, participating citizen." Joyce said sometimes personal opinions must be set aside.
"A lot of people have to do that in their jobs," he said, adding, "If I didn't think I could do that, I wouldn't have signed up for the Planning Commission."