The 3rd District Court judge presiding over the lawsuit between Park City Mountain Resort and its landlord, Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, indicated Thursday morning he would sign a de facto eviction order against PCMR but grant a stay on its enforcement.
Judge Ryan Harris ordered the two sides into mediation in an effort to reach a resolution in the case. He told the attorneys the sides owe it to the community to participate in mediation. An order to engage in mediation was not expected and it came toward the end of the hearing.
Harris scheduled another hearing centered on the eviction order on Aug. 27. That hearing, he said, will address the manner of the enforcement of the eviction order, if it is pursued after the mediation.
Harris during the hearing essentially ruled that PCMR is unlawfully occupying the Talisker Land Holdings, LLC acreage. The de facto eviction order, known as an order of restitution, gives the resort 60 days to vacate the land. The acreage underlies most of the PCMR terrain.
Alan Sullivan, the lead attorney for the PCMR side, told the judge the Aug. 27 date of the hearing was fine. John Lund, who is the lead attorney for Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, wanted the hearing scheduled sooner, though.
The PCMR side filed the case in 2012. It centers on the resort's lease of Talisker Land Holdings, LLC terrain. The judge has backed the landowner in a series of rulings, including a critical decision that the lease expired in 2011 after it was not renewed.
Talisker Land Holdings, LLC wants to evict PCMR as a result of the rulings. The PCMR side argues an eviction is premature, saying other decisions should be made beforehand.
The Thursday court date drew one of the larger crowds to observe a hearing in the closely watched lawsuit. Top-ranking figures from the PCMR side were in the audience, including John Cumming, who is the CEO of PCMR parent Powdr Corp., and PCMR President and General Manager Jenni Smith.
The hearing also drew interested parties like Main Street businessman Mike Sweeney and restaurateur Rick Anderson. Their places would be greatly impacted if PCMR closes as a result of an eviction. Others who were in the audience included Tom Daley, who is a City Hall attorney, former Park City Councilman Joe Kernan and Myles Rademan, once City Hall's public affairs director and a longtime observer of the ski industry.
In his arguments to the judge, Sullivan said other issues like damages and attorney fees should be addressed prior to an eviction. He said testimony and a trial are needed. He said an eviction order should "not be a standalone order." He also said it is "not a time for shortcuts."
Sullivan also said an eviction would lead to the closure of PCMR. That would create "tremendous hardship" on the community, he said. Sullivan also said the PCMR side would be interested in a deal with Vail Resorts, but he did not offer details.
The Colorado firm is overseeing the Talisker Land Holdings, LLC side of the case as part of its long-term deal to operate the Talisker corporate family's Canyons Resort. The agreement could be extended to the disputed terrain at PCMR depending on the outcome of the lawsuit.
"We are willing to do a deal with Vail so the resort will not shut down," Sullivan told the judge.
He also said it would be "economically meaningless" to Vail Resorts if the eviction order was not signed. Sullivan said a signed eviction order would not be helpful to the negotiations.
But Lund contended the judge should follow state laws that allow property owners to promptly recover their land. He said it does not make sense for the judge to wait until after the other issues are decided to sign an eviction order.
"They only ask for postponement and delay," Lund said.
He also accused the Cumming family, which owns Powdr Corp., of creating "unnecessary drama." The PCMR side controls the base area, the parking lots and other infrastructure needed to operate a mountain resort on the disputed terrain, complicating the situation. The PCMR side has said those are not for sale. If Cumming would acknowledge the error in not renewing the lease, the sides could work toward a resolution, Lund said.
The sides also addressed whether PCMR could remove most of the ski lifts if the resort is evicted. Sullivan said the lifts are "incredibly valuable pieces of equipment." Lund countered that the lifts are affixed to the ground and must remain under an eviction. The status of the lifts is expected to be argued in greater detail at another hearing. The judge did not render a decision about the lifts on Thursday.