City Hall chooses neutrality in interconnect discussions | ParkRecord.com

City Hall chooses neutrality in interconnect discussions

Jay Hamburger The Park Record

City Hall did not take a position on a legislative move in favor of some sort of connection between the Park City-area mountain resorts and the ones in the Cottonwood Canyons, saying that the municipal government had not discussed the idea prior to the state taking action.

Legislators overwhelmingly approved a resolution supporting what is known as an interconnect of the mountain resorts. The resolution is not considered a law, and in passing a resolution, the state did not mandate any moves toward an interconnect. The resolution, though, is a strong statement in favor of the interconnect. Wayne Niederhauser, a Republican senator from Sandy, sponsored the resolution.

In a City Hall summary of the resolution delivered to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council Thursday, staffers recommended that the municipal government maintain a neutral stand on the resolution. The summary says the neutral position should be held until the City Council discusses the idea of an interconnect later.

The Utah League of Cities and Towns, a group that represents the interests of local governments, did not take a position, either, the City Hall summary indicated. Park City leaders often align themselves with the positions of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

There has been widespread talk in recent months about the prospects of an interconnect, something promoters of the Utah ski industry have envisioned in some form for decades. Much of the recent discussion has been centered on an idea to connect Canyons and Solitude with what has been dubbed SkiLink — a gondola stretching between the two resorts.

The legislative resolution, though, is broader in its language than the promoters of SkiLink. The resolution discusses the seven mountain resorts that stretch between the Park City area and Little Cottonwood Canyon. It describes that the proximity of the resorts provides the opportunity for an interconnect, which is something "that leading competing winter tourism states do not have."

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"Connecting the ski resorts in Summit County and Salt Lake County will create a skiing experience unavailable anywhere else in North America and reposition Utah’s ski and snowboard experience to be even more competitive and attractive relative to other states," the resolution says.

The resolution envisions an increase in tourism, state revenue and jobs. It also addresses topics like traffic, pollution and water quality. Critics of an interconnect worry about the effects on the backcountry environment and water quality.

The legislators want a copy of the resolution sent to government officials on the local and federal level. The list includes Williams, the City Council, the Summit County Council and Summit County Manager Bob Jasper.

Diane Foster, the interim assistant Park City manager and the City Hall staffer who monitored the Legislature, said on Thursday an interconnect can be broadly interpreted. She described four scenarios that could be considered an interconnect: a SkiLink-like connection; linking two or three of the Park City-area resorts in some fashion; connecting the seven resorts between the Park City area and the Cottonwood Canyons; creating a bus or rail link between the Park City area and the Cottonwood Canyons.

She cautioned that the resolution does not hold the same power as a bill that is passed by the Legislature.

"It’s not a bill that is putting in place funding. It’s not a bill putting in place some action," Foster said.

She said City Hall staffers in the last few weeks started discussing topics related to an interconnect, including the effects on the economy, community impacts and what sort of changes it would have on the transportation system. Foster was unsure when the issue would be brought to the mayor and City Council in a formal session.

It is not clear what sort of role City Hall would have someday in the discussions and approval process of an interconnect, particularly one that would not be situated inside the Park City limits.