Deer Valley sale comes with development rights from long ago |

Deer Valley sale comes with development rights from long ago

Resort holds overall approval for Snow Park project, timeline not set

Deer Valley Resort holds rights to develop the Snow Park parking lots dating from the resort’s 1970s overall approval. The resort says the timing of a project at Snow Park was not discussed during the negotiations that led to the sale of Deer Valley to a ski-industry startup.

The slopes of Deer Valley Resort were the attraction in the planned sale of the resort to a ski-industry startup with holdings that include 12 mountain resorts throughout North America.

But the startup, lacking a name, would also acquire the base-area lands that are owned by the resort. One of the key real estate holdings of Deer Valley is situated outside Snow Park Lodge in lower Deer Valley. The vast parking lots stretch outward from the lodge and provide relatively flat, highly developable land. The development potential has not been widely discussed in the short time since the planned acquisition was announced, but it will likely be addressed in coming years as the startup settles in as the owner of Deer Valley.

City Hall in the 1970s granted an overall development approval for what would become the Deer Valley Resort slopes, Snow Park Lodge and Silver Lake Village. At that time, municipal leaders granted development rights to the various pieces of ground, and many of those lands have been built upon in the intervening decades.

The resort, though, has not moved ahead with the development rights attached to the Snow Park lots. According to the Park City Planning Department, the overall Deer Valley approval allows 209 unit-equivalents of development, a City Hall measurement that typically involves a unit of 2,000 square feet. Another 40,000 square feet of commercial space meant to support the operations of a ski resort is allowed at the location as part of the 1970s approval.

Bob Wheaton, the president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort, said on Friday the discussion about the acquisition of the resort did not address the development details. The sides talked about other issues like the resort's focus on guests, the focus on staffers, the resort's cap on the number of skiers allowed on the slopes in a day and the snowboarding ban, he said.

"The timing for that has not come up," Wheaton said about the development of the Snow Park lots.

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The prospects of Deer Valley pursuing the Snow Park development have been occasionally mentioned over the past 20 years, but more formal talks never materialized. Wheaton said Deer Valley considered moving forward most recently in 2006 and 2007. He said the resort at that time engaged a contractor to craft costs and a timeline. A formal application, though, was not filed. Wheaton said the decision against pursuing a project at that time was fortuitous as the recession struck shortly afterward.

Deer Valley, meanwhile, is involved with a major development and expansion of the slopes on the Wasatch County side of the resort. It is difficult to project the timeline of that project. Wheaton said the timing of the Wasatch County development, known as Mayflower, will be prioritized over a project on the Snow Park lots. A project at Snow Park will be pursued once Mayflower is "sufficiently developed," Wheaton said, indicating that sort of timeline would guard against lots of real estate being put on the market at roughly the same time.

The Snow Park project is generally described as a combination of residences and commercial spaces like shops and restaurants. He said there would be a pedestrian plaza and common spaces. An ice rink may be a part of the plans, he said. The residences would be on an upper level. A parking structure with room for approximately 2,100 vehicles would be required to replace the space for 1,250 cars the Snow Park lots now hold as well as to add spots to account for the traffic the new development would be expected to generate.

The Park City Planning Commission will be required to grant an approval for a project and will weigh the details against the overall approval from the 1970s. It seems almost certain the Planning Commission will heavily scrutinize issues like traffic, the designs and building heights, similar to the panel's reviews of other large development proposals.

Wheaton said Deer Valley intends to design a project with smaller buildings than elsewhere in Park City. The resort does not want to "block out the stars," he said about the planned building designs. The blueprints will "hold the heights way down," Wheaton said.

"The new ownership doesn't alter any of our plans, any of our vision," he said.