Election, Sundance marked ’05 Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF
December 30, 2005
5. When is the taste test?
Those who imbibe on whiskey probably were giddy with a Park City Council decision supporting a distillery.
Late in the year, at the last City Council meeting, the elected officials voted to allow a sale of the key buildings on the landmark Watts property to David Perkins so he could start the whiskey distillery. He plans to call the outfit Quaking Aspen Distilleries and Perkins and others envision the distillery as a tourist attraction unique among ski towns. "How many other ski areas have one. It’s a differentiator for us from Rocky Mountain ski areas," Perkins said in an interview after being picked. The price is $1,435,000 but the deal is not expected to close for some time, until the city’s Planning Commission approves permits for the distillery. The sale is among City Hall’s most notable real-estate deals given the prominence of the historic Watts property, located on Park Avenue, nearby its intersection with Heber Avenue. The government bought the property, which includes a landmark garage, a big house and a smaller house, from Burnis Watts in 1997 for $920,000 and, since then, has intermittently considered what to do with the buildings. A number of ideas had been discussed over the years and in 2003 and 2004 the government seemed to be favoring allowing a glass-blowing studio on the property. A deal, though, was never finalized, leading City Hall to seek ideas in 2005. The whiskey distillery was picked over a diverse group of submittals, including a nightclub and performing-arts center and a lodge for people who live in Promontory. "Another nightclub was not what we were looking for," City Councilwoman Candy Erickson said as she readied to cast her ‘Yea’ vote, noting that the distillery will be a daytime attraction. Perkins wants to open the distillery as soon as he is able and said recently that the earliest opening date would be spring of 2007. In divvying up the Watts property, the City Council also authorized a $575,000 sale of a house at 664 Woodside Ave. to Peter Silvero for $575,000, a decision that upset David Bertinelli, who has rented there for a decade and submitted a bid to buy the house. 4. Merchants: yippee for parking Merchants were not seen doing cartwheels on Main Street but that’s how happy some of them probably are as 2005 ends. After years of ideas, budget talks and lobbying from the merchants, City Hall broke ground on a new parking garage in Swede Alley, just north of and connected to the 1980s-era Chine Bridge garage. The merchants have argued continuously that there are not enough parking spots in the Main Street core and studies have supported the claims, finding that there is not enough downtown parking at the busiest times of the year. "Whatever problems it causes in the summer, it will reap benefits in the winter," said Mike Ryan, from Elements of Elegante, as the crews were starting the work in April. The price is set at $5.75 million plus another $500,000 for related work. There was little controversy as the money was earmarked for the project and, as the crews worked through the summer and fall, there were few complaints about inconveniences. The new garage will hold 305 spots, netting the city 277 new spaces since some were lost to construction. The government had hoped to finish the garage by mid-December, before the big Christmas-week crowds arrived, but the project was delayed and the city did not hit its target opening date. A shortage of concrete and a problem with post-tension cable delayed the work. "We’re disappointed but there’s not much we can do about it," Ken Davis, the president of the Main Street Business Alliance, said about the delay, adding that the revised timetable was not a "major catastrophe." In late December, the city predicted that the garage would be substantially complete by late January. 3. Wanted: Latinos lead the list The Park City Police Department, initially without much publicity, in the fall released a list of the 10 most-wanted criminal suspects. All were Latinos and Latino leaders quickly noticed the racial makeup of the list and questioned why, in a city that is mostly white, the most-wanted list was exclusively Latino. The suspects were all men and wanted on a variety of charges, with six of them facing narcotics counts. Bail ranged from $1,500 to $50,000. Freddy Vasquez-Lopez was the most notorious of the group, accused of beating a 7-Eleven clerk in April. The police published ‘Wanted’ fliers of the men and posted them on the Internet and other places. Police Chief Lloyd Evans defended the racial makeup of the list, saying that the police picked people who were seen as a danger to the community. "It was immediately apparent that our Top 10 were going to be Hispanic," Evans said. "But the fact of the matter is it didn’t matter. What matters is the safety of the community." Latino advocates were upset. Shelley Weiss, an advocate in Park City, said the list was "very frustrating." She said, however, that the Police Department was not after Latinos and accepted the department’s explanation that it based the most-wanted list on the charges and the amount of bail, not race. Robert Archuleta, the head of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, said the list seemed "heavy handed" toward Latinos. "From this distance, it almost seems like targeting Hispanics," he said. "If that’s all it is, Park City is pretty clean, crimewise." 2. A mayoral cakewalk As August arrived, Parkites were left wondering if Mayor Dana Williams would be challenged as he ran for a second term. The mayor’s office, normally one of the most sought-after political positions in Summit County, was not attracting much buzz as the month-long filing window was reaching its end. When the deadline passed, Williams was the only person on the mayoral ballot, the most stunning event of the 2005 election season. Four years before, Williams was entangled in a bitter race with Fred Jones, who was on the City Council at the time, in one of modern-day Park City’s most uproarious elections. But the mood of the city changed during his four-year term and many Parkites seemed happy with the Williams-led government. On Election Day in November, about 90 percent of the people who voted cast ballots for Williams. "I was both honored and humbled by the fact there wasn’t anybody who ran," Williams said in August, just after the filing window closed. Meanwhile, the City Council campaign drew a small number of candidates as well. Some dropped out before the election, including incumbent Kay Calvert, leaving three people on ballot on Election Day. The voters re-elected Jim Hier to a second term and returned Roger Harlan, who served in the 1990s, to the City Council. Harlan was the top vote-getter, beating Hier by nine votes. The winners’ terms start in January. Mark Blue, a perennial City Council contender without strong voter support, finished third, badly trailing Harlan and Hier. A riveting issue did not define the election and instead the candidates generally offered voters platforms that encompassed well-known topics like the future of development. Parkites were only mildly interested and just 10.73 percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots. Dancing into the future Movie-lovers were not the only ones rejoicing in October. The business community was thrilled, City Hall was pleased and the organizers of the Sundance Film Festival were happy with a pivotal accord that guarantees the festival remains in Park City for years. The biggest event on Park City’s calendar, Sundance brings huge crowds of movie buffs and Hollywood types to the city, spending their money at hotels, restaurants and stores. But there seemed to always be the chance that the Sundance Institute would find a new locale for the festival, a scenario that City Hall wanted to avoid. The deal runs from 2007 until 2018 and includes a 10-year option, keeping the festival in the city until at least the late 2020s. City Hall agreed to pay Sundance $220,000 each year and the Park City Chamber/Bureau will chip in another $160,000 annually. Sundance estimates that the film festival in 2005 generated $36.5 million in economic activity in Park City. As part of the agreement, meanwhile, Sundance agreed to move its year-round Utah headquarters from Salt Lake City to Park City, where the offices will be housed in a refurbished mining-era building on the grounds of the Silver Star development, on the western edge of Thaynes Canyon. The Sundance staffers could move in as early as late summer 2006. "Park City is a big part of the reason the film festival is successful," Jill Miller, the institute’s managing director, said after the Park City Council approved the agreement. "Park City and the Sundance Film Festival have really grown up together."