Park City developer contends there is silent Treasure support
For more than a decade, as the Park City Planning Commission considered the polarizing Treasure development proposal, opponents of the project have packed meeting after meeting.
The opposition formed the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, hired an attorney to press the Planning Commission and posted yard signs against the project. The testimony to the Planning Commission has been almost exclusively against the project.
But as the Planning Commission fast approaches a historic vote, perhaps on Dec. 13, the Treasure side has yet to muster much of any public backing. There has only been a smattering of support during Planning Commission hearings over the 10-plus years of on-and-off discussions with various Planning Commission rosters. The hearings have seemed especially weighted toward the opposition in recent months. No supporters have testified at some of the meetings this year.
The opposition has concentrated on issues like the size of the buildings, the traffic the project is expected to generate on streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue as well as the impacts of the construction on the neighborhood.
The Treasure side has countered that the project would involve skiing improvements on the Town Lift terrain at Park City Mountain Resort, it would provide much-needed convention space and add an exclusive lodging property close to Main Street.
The Treasure partnership, though, continues to contend the project has supporters in Park City who have opted not to speak publicly for a variety of reasons. The project, a Treasure representative said on Monday, has backers of various stripes, including businesspeople and Old Town residents.
The partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, wants the Planning Commission to approve a project of approximately 1 million square feet on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure land and nearby parcels. The partnership must win another approval before Treasure itself can proceed.
People are “more likely to complain than praise or applaud,” said Pat Sweeney, who represents the family in the Treasure talks and has long claimed there is support for the project in the community.
“We get, on a fairly regular basis, support from people we know, run into people in town,” Sweeney said. “Silent people who really don’t feel adverse to the project.”
The supporters “frankly, think it would be great,” he said.
Sweeney said some of the supporters are reluctant to speak publicly based on a concern about intimidation by the opponents of the project. Sweeney noted the number of yard signs against the project. The opponents have painted Treasure “like it’s some kind of plague,” Sweeney said.
“There’s certainly an effort to make people feel if they’re not on board, they’re not part of the local community,” he said.
Sweeney said there is support for Treasure on Main Street, something that fits with the development partnership’s long-held assertion that the project would boost business along the shopping, dining and entertainment strip. There is also support in Old Town, where Treasure backers look forward to the skiing improvements planned as part of the project, Sweeney said. The construction industry, which would be expected to benefit as the project is built, also supports Treasure, he said.
“They know where their bread is buttered. They don’t want to get involved directly,” he said about the construction industry.
Sweeney declined to identify the supporters, saying there could be repercussions against them if they are named.
“I think there’s probably an element of intimidation,” he said.
The Planning Commission receives testimony at hearings and through written submittals. The opposition has claimed an outsized majority in both categories.
“It’s a controversial project. Sometimes the public comment can be one-sided,” said Adam Strachan, the chair of the Planning Commission and the longest-serving member of the panel, adding that evidence has not been provided that supporters have been intimidated. “Just because it’s one-sided doesn’t mean it’s intimidating for supporters. It’s individual to the supporter.”
He said supporters and opponents have the same opportunity to testify or provide written input about Treasure.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss Treasure again on Wednesday. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Park City Council chambers at the Marsac Building. A hearing is planned. The Planning Commission on Wednesday could signal how it may vote at a meeting on Dec. 13.
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Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, has died, the municipal government said. Erickson was involved at some level in nearly all the major decisions regarding growth and development in Park City since the early 1990s.