Summit County Council member Claudia McMullin recently purchased what was once Silver Bean Coffee in the Park City Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Center on State Road 224 to start her own business, Hugo Coffee. One community member, however, is concerned that McMullin is using her county position to benefit her business, which is located inside property that the county purchased.
In 2011, Summit County issued a bond in the amount of $1.4 million to purchase space in what is known as Boyer building A to be used by the Park City Chamber of Commerce, which would pay rent through its funds from transient room taxes, levied on hotel guests.
McMullin said she purchased her coffee shop at fair market value from former 2002 Olympic mogul skier Shannon Bahrke, who previously owned and operated Silver Bean Coffee. She said she has the same lease agreement with the Park City Chamber of Commerce as Bahrke, although she would not divulge the terms.
Christian Hague, a Snyderville Basin resident, claims that McMullin is trying to use her position as a County Council member to change the signage rules for her business. Currently, Hugo Coffee has only one small sign near its entrance but the business is difficult to spot from S.R. 224.
In a March 6 interview with KPCW, McMullin said the signage rules for her business, which are governed by a development agreement and not a county ordinance, are very strict. She echoed that same sentiment in an interview with The Park Record, but added she would recuse herself from any decision to change the building's development agreement.
"I'm a small business owner trying to make ends meet like anyone else," McMullin said. "This was a risk I took because I believe in myself and in my ability to grow a business."
In addition to his concerns about McMullin's potential conflict, Hague calls into question the county's rationale for purchasing Boyer building A.
"Why did the county buy such a big space in building A? Wouldn't it have been better to lease space?" Hague said, adding that he believes that All Seasons Resort, which offers hotel, townhouse and condo vacation rentals, should not be an allowed use inside the building. "The county has a conflict of interest with itself. They went out of their way to allow All Seasons [Resort] in there, when they shouldn't have done that. They did that to cut down the common cost."
Hague said that the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission initially ruled against purchasing the building several years ago, but that then-Community Development Director Don Sargent overruled the decision. He added that the Boyer Research Park's project manager, David Allen, officiated at Sargent's wedding, another potential conflict of interest.
Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said that, since the building is operated by the Park City Chamber of Commerce, it is their choice to decide which businesses are allowed to lease space. The question of allowed uses is somewhat muddy, he added.
"There are uses for that building now that we have some questions about," Jasper said. "If a tenant that's there now moves out, a new one has to get a business license. We're going to look harder at what's an allowed use and what's not."