May 28, 2005: Critics peck at Treasure Hill |

May 28, 2005: Critics peck at Treasure Hill


Critics continue to peck at the Sweeney family’s Treasure Hill development proposal, using a hearing this week to again complain about the traffic that they fear the project will attract to their neighborhood.

Almost 1 ½ years after submitting the Treasure Hill application, the Sweeneys on Wednesday faced a crowd largely made of opponents, continuing a months-long trend of criticism regarding the project, proposed on a hillside overlooking Old Town, on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.

The Park City Planning Commission mainly took testimony from people who live on streets nearby the Treasure Hill land, a neighborhood that has been leery of the development since the application was submitted. Planning Commissioners do not appear close to casting a vote on the proposal and it seems that the discussions could continue for months.

As was the case in previous hearings, Wednesday’s discussion largely centered on the traffic that Treasure Hill is expected to attract to the neighborhood, including on streets like Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue.

People who live along those and other nearby streets are dismayed and say that their neighborhoods will be overrun with traffic driving to or from Treasure Hill. But the Sweeneys counter the argument with assurances that the roadways can handle the increased traffic and that Treasure Hill will offer transit options like mechanized people movers to reduce the number of vehicles in the neighborhood.

Abby McNulty, a Norfolk Avenue resident, told commissioners during the hearing that the project would create more stress on neighborhood streets. She mentioned that pedestrians in the neighborhood must walk in the roadway, creating a potentially unsafe situation.

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"We don’t have sidewalks in Old Town. We walk down the middle of the street," McNulty said.

Ron Shepard, a Norfolk Avenue resident, worried about traffic, including on the Crescent Tram, a tiny Old Town road, and said another traffic study is needed before City Hall proceeds with the Sweeeney application. Others agreed that an additional traffic study is needed.

The Sweeney family had previously funded a traffic study that found that the nearby roads are adequate, but many people have questioned the study’s findings.

There was sporadic praise for Treasure Hill, however. David Belz, an Old Town resident with land interests in the neighborhood, said the community owes the Sweeney family thanks for its role in PCMR’s decision to extend ski terrain into Old Town at the Town Lift.

The Sweeneys owned much of the nearby land and were key players in the 1990s as PCMR expanded toward Old Town.

Belz also said, in the past, a series of projects once met opposition before winning over the critics. He cited the Town Bridge, which is a skier link between PCMR and the Town Lift Plaza, and the Old Town roundabout.

Belz predicts that Treasure Hill will energize the Main Street core and that the project could one day spur the construction of a gondola linking Main Street, PCMR and Deer Valley. Talk of such a gondola started in the 1990s, when United Park City Mines was in negotiations with City Hall regarding its Empire Pass development on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort. The discussions, though, were preliminary and never reached the detailed stage.

The Sweeneys hold a 1980s approval for the overall project but have approached the Planning Commission for the permit needed to proceed, meaning that the 1980s-era OK allows development on the land. That the development was approved so long ago, before some of the critics moved to Park City, has caused consternation.

The Sweeneys are seeking a permit for 282 units such as condominiums, townhouses and hotel rooms and 19,000 square feet of commercial space on an 11.5-acre development parcel. Much of the land will be kept as open space and the Sweeneys have previously set aside a swath of nearby ground as open space. The project would be located on a hillside directly west of Old Town.

Meanwhile, testimony on Wednesday covered a range of additional issues, similar to those that have been brought up in previous meetings. The neighbors are worried about the size of the buildings proposed, for instance.

Mary Whitesides, an Empire Avenue resident, is worried that Treasure Hill will loom on the hillside.

"The project overpowers anything else in Old Town," Whitesides said.

She added her opinion that visitors will not want to stay in a project like Treasure Hill and she prefers that the Sweeneys rework the development into one that features exclusive condominiums.

Planning Commissioners had limited comments on Wednesday, with Bruce Erickson indicating that a significant amount of work is needed on planning-related issues and he is interested in learning more about project-related traffic. Planning Commissioner Bob Powers said traffic in the city is getting worse as new developments are built and said he wants to move from Park City if he can sell his house.

The next Planning Commission meeting regarding Treasure Hill is tentatively scheduled for July 13.