Crucial Treasure report expected Wednesday
April 21, 2009
The attorney hired to comb through the Sweeney family’s Treasure development approval said Monday he expects to complete his report on Wednesday, just hours before he is scheduled to present his findings to the City Hall panel considering the project.
Jody Burnett, tapped as the Treasure special counsel earlier in the spring, declined to discuss details of his investigation during a Monday interview. He said he intends to submit the report to the Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday. The panel had earlier requested the probe and the Park City Council agreed to hire Burnett as a special counsel. It is unusual for City Hall to hire a special counsel to look into an individual development.
"There’s a lot of material to review. It’s a project that’s been pending for a long time," Burnett said.
The Sweeneys in the 1980s secured an overall approval to develop Treasure as part of a wider agreement with city officials at the time. The agreement also allowed some nearby development like what was built as the Caledonian.
But questions have been raised about whether the earlier approval remains valid and, if it does, what development rights the Sweeneys have for Treasure stretching from the 1980s. Burnett expects to address both issues on Wednesday.
The Sweeneys contend they have progressed along a proper timeline, with the construction of portions of the overall approval like the Caledonian over the years. They are also confident that the current Treasure proposal fits with what was approved earlier.
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Burnett’s opinion regarding the validity of the earlier approval will be especially anticipated. City Hall attorneys have long maintained that the Sweeneys have not let the 1980s approval lapse, indicating repeatedly that there has been progress on the overall plan that keeps the approval valid. But some of the Treasure critics have questioned whether that is the case as they argue that the neighborhood has grown dramatically since the 1980s and Treasure no longer fits.
If Burnett indicates that the 1980s approval is no longer valid, his opinion would counter those from City Attorney Mark Harrington and his predecessors who have been asked to research the topic. Burnett, though, has said Utah law generally is favorable to landowners.
The Sweeneys are seeking an approval from the Planning Commission for approximately 200 hotel rooms, 100 condominiums and 19,000 square feet of commercial space on land off of Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue close to the Town Lift.
Critics are especially indignant about traffic on the nearby streets, saying that the streets cannot handle the increased number of cars. They are also worried about the size of the buildings proposed for the project and the years of construction that are expected, among other concerns.
Pat Sweeney, who leads the family’s efforts, said Burnett has not contacted him during the probe. Sweeney said he has not received updates about the progress.
"We have not been, what’s the right word, a participant," Sweeney said, adding, however, that the lack of involvement is not worrisome. "They hold their cards very close to the vest. They try to look at the facts and not be lobbied by anybody, as they should."
He said if Burnett determines that the earlier approval is no longer valid it would "clearly be a major, major thing."
Burnett is scheduled to present his findings to the Planning Commission at a Wednesday meeting at the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library and Education Center. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m., and the talks about Treasure are anticipated to start at 7 p.m. The panel is also scheduled to talk about Treasure-related traffic and hold a public hearing.