Huntsman family opts against building gondola on Deer Valley land, citing cost

The Park Record.

The Huntsman family will not propose building a gondola on land long under its control in Deer Valley as it pursues a development on the acreage, a project representative told a City Hall panel at a recent meeting, a statement that appears to eliminate some of the possible routes between Main Street and Silver Lake Village.

Rory Murphy, who is representing the prominent Utah family, told the Park City Planning Commission in mid-February the development that is proposed does not support the construction of a gondola that could run into the tens of millions of dollars. The development would not offer ski-in, ski-out access, he said.

Murphy in an interview after the meeting reiterated the idea that the project would not be large enough to carry a gondola.

“The project does not support a $30 million gondola,” he said. “There’s just not enough density there.”

Gondolas in mountain resorts are typically seen as options to connect densely developed areas. The Huntsman family is seeking an approval for a subdivision involving 15 lots on approximately 41 acres at 5000 Royal St. The land is close to the American Flag subdivision and midway between Snow Park and Silver Lake Village. There is a mansion on one of the lots, leaving the possibility to develop another 14 houses. The 15 lots, though, would not create a densely packed core of development that would be more likely to justify the costs of constructing a gondola.

The statements regarding the project not supporting the costs of the construction of a gondola were significant at moment when it appears there is support at City Hall and among rank-and-file Parkites for exploring alternative means of transportation. There is widespread concern in the Park City area about traffic that has led to the discussions about alternative transit options like aerial routes.

The concept of creating an aerial transit system that would apparently rely on gondolas and lifts has been mentioned in recent months. Details have not been publicized, but it seems there could be more formal talks later about aerial transit as part of an overall system. It is not clear whether the wider discussions would consider extending any aerial transit system to a place like the Huntsman land on Royal Street.

The land, though, had been mentioned during an earlier round of talks about gondola connections. In 2013, as the Huntsman family was considering a development on the same land, an attorney representing the family indicated the acreage occupied a strategic location for a gondola linking Main Street and Silver Lake Village. The attorney at that time said there were many potential routes between Main Street and Silver Lake Village that would cross the land and the Huntsman family land could be the locale of a gondola midstation.

There has been little talk publicly in the intervening years about a gondola linking Main Street and Silver Lake Village through the Huntsman land. Statements were made at the time that a gondola could have been built by the end of 2014 and development of the Huntsman land could have commenced as early as that year as well.

The Planning Commission at the recent meeting started its deliberations about the request to subdivide the land. A vote was not scheduled. More detailed talks are expected later, but the recent meeting likely offered a preview of the issues the Planning Commission will cover as the review continues.

The panel mentioned the size of the houses, but the planning commissioners did not reach a maximum square-footage number that would be supported. Murphy told the Planning Commission he wanted to consult with the Huntsman family regarding the size of the houses. One of the planning commissioners, John Phillips, indicated outdoor lighting must be addressed. Planning commissioners also mentioned a study of the traffic the project would generate was not needed based on the size of the proposed development and the plans to operate a van service that would be available on an on-call basis.

One of the speakers who provided input to the Planning Commission at the recent meeting briefly broached the topic of a gondola, inquiring whether one would be permitted under the restrictions that would be crafted setting aside much of the acreage within the project as open space.

The land, with its location in Deer Valley, has long been seen as valuable to a developer. The late Jon Huntsman Sr. more than a decade ago attempted to sell the land at 5000 Royal St. and adjoining parcels, attaching a $55 million asking price to the ground. The land did not sell amid the effects of the recession, eventually leading to the current proposal.


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