Montage deal approved
The Empire Pass developers, mired in technical discussions with City Hall about Judge Tunnel water, on Thursday won the approval of a wide-ranging deal that allows them to pursue a swanky Montage hotel.
But they must still negotiate what has become a tricky water agreement that would address the future of the Judge Tunnel, an important drinking-water source for Park City. A deal regarding the water was discussed extensively recently and on Thursday it appeared that the city and the developers were still trying to strike an accord.
The government has been considering the Montage for more than a year but the water-related points of the agreement entangled the final days of the negotiations.
Illustrating the confusion about the water, after the unanimous vote, Park City Councilman Jim Hier, who is usually a stickler for procedural details, quipped, "I’m not sure what we did." Tom Daley, the City Hall attorney who frequently negotiates water deals, was briefly perturbed that details were being discussed in public. Water deals are generally negotiated in closed-door sessions.
The water discussions will address what are known as discharge permits, which regulate water leaving the Judge Tunnel. Such permits are now not required but there are worries about the ramifications if the rules change in the future. If that occurs, there are questions about whether the government or the developers would be responsible, including what would occur if the developers by that time are no longer in business. There are concerns about contaminants in the water.
The Montage deal changes a 1990s agreement between City Hall and United Park City Mines, the predecessor of Talisker, the present developers. The developers prefer to build the Montage rather than the units that were allowed as part of the original agreement.
The Montage adds 192 hotel rooms and a few condominiums to the overall Empire Pass project, on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort.
The Montage, which has been touted as an upscale hotel, would be situated a few hundred feet west of the Empire lodge at Deer Valley.
Through the negotiations, City Hall won a list of benefits from the developers in exchange for the additional development rights. The key deal point is the developers’ agreement to set aside from residential development 2,800 acres of land at Park City Mountain Resort. Another approximately 130 acres of land above King Road will also be set aside.
Meanwhile, the developers agreed to build a public 750-spot park-and-ride lot at Richardson Flats, on the S.R. 248 entryway. Another swath of land at Richardson Flats may be turned into a recreation area under the agreement. The developers agreed to build more affordable housing as well.
The deal left out the prospects of the developers building a gondola, potentially linking Empire Pass to Old Town through Park City Mountain Resort. That idea was first discussed years ago but the gondola talks then were scrapped shortly after they started.
As the Montage was discussed, the gondola idea was briefly revived, with City Councilman Joe Kernan being the chief supporter. Others, though, did not agree with him that a gondola could be successful in cutting traffic and the idea was not heavily debated in the last part of the talks.
There was little public interest in the discussions and meetings generally drew people with business interests tied to the decision. On Thursday, Deer Valley Resort chief Bob Wheaton told the City Council the Montage is preferred and it is "so far superior" when compared to the original approval.
No regular Parkites testified on Thursday. In previous meetings, most poorly attended by the public, there was sporadic concern about the Montage attracting more traffic to Marsac Avenue, the most direct route between Old Town and Empire Pass.
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861 acres have been placed under a conservation easement, protecting the land from development in perpetuity.