The courtroom on Wednesday was packed at the start of a hearing during which some expected a 3rd District Court judge would attach a dollar figure to a bond that Park City Mountain Resort will be required to post to remain on most of the land underlying the resort's terrain.
It was among the largest audiences to watch a hearing in a high-profile lawsuit pitting PCMR against the firm that owns most of the land at the resort, Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, and Colorado-based Vail Resorts. The amount of the bond has been a critical question in the case in recent weeks.
The audience appeared to be made mostly of people without ties to either side. Audience members seemed riveted as attorneys for PCMR and Talisker Land Holdings, LLC-Vail Resorts argued about financial matters important as the judge considers a bond number. Judge Ryan Harris opted against setting a number on Wednesday and scheduled another hearing for Sept. 3.
Two members of the Summit County Council -- Chris Robinson and Roger Armstrong -- were at the hearing. Tom Daley, a City Hall attorney, was also in the audience. There were several well-known Park City businesspeople watching as well. They included Mike Sweeney, whose family owns the Town Lift Plaza, and restaurateur and commercial real estate owner Hans Fuegi.
Bob Richer, who served in elected office in Park City and Summit County, was in attendance. Myles Rademan, who was City Hall's longtime public affairs director, also watched the hearing.
Robinson, who is the chair of the County Council, said in an interview afterward he was pleased with the judge's decision to delay setting an amount for the bond.
"I think it's good. I think it shows the judge is going to be really thoughtful," Robinson said, adding he was encouraged that mediation between the two sides was continuing at the time of the hearing.
Fuegi said he anticipates the dollar figure the judge will attach to the bond will be "acceptable to both parties."
"My hope is he'll come up with something in the middle," Fuegi said, referring to the $100 million-plus gap between the numbers presented by the two sides.
Sweeney, meanwhile, mentioned the extension of mediation until Friday, the second extension granted for the talks.
"I think it's a positive they're talking. That's what they're doing," Sweeney said, noting the judge would not have granted an extension on mediation if the talks were not progressing. "He was convinced to give them another week. They asked for it."
Armstrong said the amount of time the judge spent privately talking with the attorneys in his chambers could signal there has been progress in mediation. He said he was interested in the judge's focus on the calculation that will be used as a dollar figure is set on the bond.
It seemed Harris is considering setting a bond that would cover damages for a narrow period of time, Armstrong said, adding it also appeared the judge was reluctant to add treble damages and prejudgment interest to the figure. Armstrong mentioned the wide range in proposed bond amounts by the two sides.
"I have no idea whether that would be acceptable to Park City . . . ," he said about Talisker Land Holdings, LLC's figure. "The range is just so large."