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Air Force envisioned at Canyons

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Air Force officials wanting to build a hotel in the Park City area will consider an option at The Canyons, the location preferred by local leaders, Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott reports.

Elliott accompanied a City Hall-led mission to Washington, D.C., early in the week for what was seen by the officials as an important round of talks about the military hotel. She says brass in Washington agreed to consider The Canyons but it is unclear what sort of commitment was given.

"I think they’re all willing to look at The Canyons," Elliott says. "It locates military vacations right in the place they want to be. It’s on a lift, by the people-mover."

The trip to Washington came in the weeks after a developer publicized his desire to build a large hotel, perhaps 600 rooms, on land known as the Red Maple parcel, 26 acres at Quinn’s Junction, west of the Park City Ice Arena.

The land was earlier provided to the military and Park City officials were incensed with the developer’s idea, saying the location, on the S.R. 248 entryway, is inappropriate and the hotel would not adhere to zoning rules at the site.

Summit County controls a development site in what is planned as a lower Canyons village, the parcel Elliott identifies. The details of a deal to allow the Air Force hotel there are unclear. It seems, however, an agreement would locate the Air Force at The Canyons site in exchange for conservation restrictions on the Red Maple land.

City Hall has coveted Red Maple as open space and preserving the parcel would advance the local government’s longstanding strategy of protecting land along the S.R. 248 entryway. The city has purchased large tracts of land in conservation deals in the area, including in Round Valley.

Elliott says about 236 development units are approved but not built at the Canyons site controlled by Summit County. She sees The Canyons, as others do locally, as a better spot for a military hotel than the isolated Red Maple site, several miles from Park City’s bustling resorts and nightlife.

"I think they’ll see it’s a fine location, far better," Elliott says, adding Park City "very much supports our troops" and the hotel would make the military more visible locally.

At The Canyons, Tim Vetter, the vice president of the resort, says officials there have not been involved in the negotiations but he touts The Canyons as a smart location for the hotel. He says The Canyons offers a nice base area and more acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain than other resorts in Utah.

"It is absolutely the place to be," Vetter says. "The Canyons is certainly supportive of our military and (would) be thrilled to welcome a group like that."

An Air Force official involved in development plans did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

The hotel would provide cut-rate rooms for people in the military family. There are similar facilities in other vacation destinations and the Air Force says they boost morale and allow people in the military on limited budgets to take trips to travel hotspots.

The Air Force previously had an aging lodge at Snowbasin but was forced to move out as that resort expanded in the years before the 2002 Winter Olympics. Since then, the Air Force has eyed locations in Park City to replace the Snowbasin lodge with a larger, more modern hotel.

On Thursday night, Mayor Dana Williams, who visited Washington with Elliott, said he is pleased City Hall has re-entered discussions with the Air Force.

"We got a lot done in a couple of days," he said, adding, "More to come on that."


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