Park City in 2018: a Treasure vote, an Olympics, roadwork and an arrest
December 29, 2018
Park City ends 2018 a changed community from the one that entered the year.
One issue, of course, stood above all others in 2018 as the community, after more than three decades, made a momentous decision about a polarizing development proposal.
But it could be more than a decade — in February of 2030 — before Park City understands the consequences of another one of the most important events of 2018. Others, though, had immediate impact.
The Park Record below presents the Top 5 new items of 2018:
5. One way to redo a road
Park City officials by the middle of the year had explained in great depth why major roadwork was needed on Prospector Avenue, an important corridor that accesses the Prospector business district and the Prospector neighborhood. New asphalt, new bus pullouts, new lighting and sidewalk improvements were part of the plans for City Hall's most important road project of the year.
The officials also realized roadwork on Prospector Avenue would be difficult for the community as a result of the strategic location. They opted to temporarily turn the road into a one-way route in an effort to ensure the work proceeded on schedule.
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The work started in early July, and the complaints began almost immediately. Some drivers did not obey the one-way signs, causing traffic problems. Other drivers avoided Prospector Avenue altogether. And that led to steep declines at some businesses along the Prospector Avenue corridor, a byproduct of the roadwork and a reason why the project became so upsetting to some.
At one establishment, Good Karma Restaurant, the impact was temporarily devastating. The owner, Houman Gohary, said business dropped by 75 percent just after the roadwork started. He called the situation "depressing, demoralizing" and reduced hours in response to the fall in business.
The road crews continued to press forward and Prospector Avenue was reopened in both directions in November, a milestone that was heralded at businesses as customers returned.
"Now we actually have a decent influx of people," James Paul, the manager at Freshies Lobster Co. on Prospector Avenue, said after the road reopened. "It was a lot to deal with. I had to explain the detour."
4. The Mayflower landing
Figures who travel within Park City planning and zoning circles typically may only occasionally glance at the map of Wasatch County, seeming to see Park City and the Snyderville Basin as the important places to monitor growth and development discussions.
But one project in Wasatch County has drawn the attention of City Hall and others in Park City, a potential development so large that it would stretch from close to the Jordanelle Reservoir up the slopes of Deer Valley Resort. The land is known as Mayflower, and major development on the 900-plus acres of land has been contemplated for decades.
Wasatch County leaders in late August approved an overall plan for Mayflower, the year after the sale of the land to a New York City firm called Extell Development Company. The numbers are audacious even in an area that is accustomed to bold development plans. The approval involves nearly 1,500 equivalent residential units such as houses, hotel rooms and condominiums, another 410 hotel units, an additional hotel that will be for the benefit of members of the military and 250,000 square feet of commercial or retail space. Deer Valley Resort envisions building six new lifts as part of Mayflower, expanding the skiing terrain by approximately 900 acres.
"This is the largest project we've had to date and most likely the largest we'll ever have," Doug Smith, the planning director in Wasatch County, said after the approval.
Although the Mayflower land is located in Wasatch County, there is concern in Park City about the impacts. Some are leery of the prospects of heavier traffic along U.S. 40 and S.R. 248 as people living or vacationing at Mayflower head into Park City for shopping, dining and entertainment.
3. The fall hunt
It was an early fall day when Polly Samuels McLean, who is a City Hall attorney, and her internationally known skier husband, Andrew McLean, headed into a mountainous area outside of Summit Park.
The September day propelled them into a criminal case and the broad debate about the conflict between recreation lovers and hunters on public lands in the state after hunting equipment disappeared. Prosecutors said a hunter's camera fixed on a trail captured an image of the McLeans and their dog as they walked by after taking hunting equipment like a tree stand valued at up to $1,499. The bow hunter, Riverton resident Skip Sheldon Roberts, drove around the neighborhood afterward, seeing the dog and then providing the address to the authorities. The Unified Police Department executed a search warrant at two residences owned by the couple and found the equipment.
The case drew widespread publicity as it involved the arrests of a famous skier and a municipal attorney. They were charged and later entered pleas in district court. Samuels Mclean pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, while her husband pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of theft. They were ordered to pay fees and restitution as well as perform community service.
Roberts afterward said there was some justice in the case even though he was frustrated with the severity of the criminal charges brought against the McLeans after they were preliminarily charged with felonies.
"It doesn't matter who you are, powerful in the community or not, we are all taught in preschool you shouldn't steal," Roberts said.
City Hall placed Samuels McLean on paid administrative leave after the arrest and her status was later changed to unpaid leave. She remained on unpaid leave in late December.
2. The countdown to 2030
The countdown to February of 2030 may have started in December.
Leaders in Park City and the wider Winter Olympic region have been talking about the prospects of staging a second Games since the end of the Olympics of 2002, but the discussions reached an important new stage late in the year.
The United States Olympic Committee in December selected Salt Lake City to bid on a future Winter Games, likely the event in 2030. The other possibility was Denver. The decision by the USOC, essentially, launched a new Olympic era for Park City, potentially long before it is known whether the region will be selected to host another Games.
Park City is expected to have a major role in the Salt Lake City bid, as it did in 2002. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort are identified as potential competition venues in a future Olympics, and the Utah Olympic Park would reprise its role as one of the busiest venues. One of the selling points by the committee that forwarded Salt Lake City to the USOC as a candidate city was the continued use of the venues from 2002, something that could bring down the cost of a second Games.
"I think the USOC recognizes we represent a perfect opportunity to showcase what the Olympic movement needs right now," said Colin Hilton, the CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and a member of the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee.
The International Olympic Committee will likely select a host city for the 2030 event in 2023, and it is not known which other cities internationally will compete for the right to host those Games. But the bid process for the Winter Olympics in 2026 has been difficult as potential cities dropped out of the running, meaning that the International Olympic Committee could have interest in what would be seen as a safe choice in Salt Lake City for the Games in 2030.
1. Treasure decided, finally
The talks about the Treasure development proposal dated back decades, but Park City leaders wanted to abruptly end them on Election Day.
The development proposal was based on a 1980s-era approval of an overall project on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Treasure partnership — comprising of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC — spent years in discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about a project with little progress.
Early in 2018, though, Park City officials and the Treasure partnership reached an agreement for City Hall to acquire the acreage for conservation purposes, a breakthrough that seemed unlikely until it was announced. The price was set at $64 million. It was a dollar figure that far exceeded any of City Hall's previous conservation deals, and most of the funding would need to be raised through an increase in property taxes that would be put to voters in a ballot measure.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council in the spring and early summer made a series of budget maneuvers to lower the dollar figure that would be attached to the ballot measure, eventually pegging the number at $48 million. They also opted to put a small amount of the funding toward an unrelated conservation deal in Thaynes Canyon should the ballot measure be approved.
The campaign was the highlight of the election season in Park City. The supporters of the ballot measure argued the acquisition of Treasure was worthwhile even at the $64 million price tag, saying the project would be devastating to the community if it were to proceed. But an opposition movement centered on the cost of Treasure and the impact of a tax increase on the middle and lower classes of Park City.
Voters on Election Day overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure. It was a landmark moment in the decades of Park City development disputes and in the years of conservation acquisitions. The acquisition is scheduled to be finalized on April 1, at the latest.
"They created the opportunity for the citizens to decide the fate of our property. They negotiated an acceptable situation for us," Pat Sweeney, who represented his family in the talks about the development, said after the results of the ballot measure were tallied, adding, "The citizens had a chance to make the decision and we're happy with their decision. I think it's a fine way for Treasure Hill to turn out."