Park City, in landmark moment, puts Treasure question to voters
The Park City Council on Thursday, as expected, agreed to ask voters on Election Day to approve a ballot measure that would fund most of the cost of the acquisition of the Treasure land in a conservation deal, a landmark moment in the discussions about a development that has bedeviled leaders for more than 30 years.
The elected officials opted to ask voters to approve a $48 million ballot measure in November. The $48 million represents the bulk of the $64 million price of the Treasure acquisition and allows for a contribution of up to $3 million toward an unrelated conservation deal in Thaynes Canyon.
The vote followed months of financial maneuvering as the elected officials attempted to reduce the final dollar figure. There was an earlier focus on a $50.7 million figure before another round of discussions brought the number down to the $48 million approved for the ballot on Thursday. Some of the notable moves involved delaying plans to build a plaza in the Old Town core, pushing back some roadwork in Old Town and rescheduling certain Main Street sidewalk improvements to a later date.
The elected officials did not hold an extensive discussion on Thursday after a series of detailed meetings earlier as they delved into the budgeting possibilities. City Councilor Tim Henney said it is “really significant” that the final figure fell below $50 million.
But there were also comments from elected officials about the tying together of Treasure and the Thaynes Canyon acreage, known as Snow Ranch Pastures. The mayor and City Council until recent weeks were focused exclusively on a deal to acquire Treasure, located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift.
The talks about involving Snow Ranch Pastures were a late addition to the overall discussions. The not-for-profit Utah Open Lands negotiated a $6 million agreement to set aside the parcel from development through an instrument known as a conservation easement. The organization wants City Hall to contribute $3 million toward the deal.
City Councilor Nann Worel said she has heard reservations from Parkites regarding linking Treasure and Snow Ranch Pastures, explaining there is concern doing so increases the complexity.
“They just want it simple,” Worel said.
Steve Joyce, another City Councilor, said there remains confusion about the Snow Ranch Pastures addition. He explained Utah Open Lands needs to raise $3 million in addition to the $3 million that voters will decide.
The mayor and City Council reviewed the ballot measure language as well. They made a minor edit by requesting the word “trailhead” be added to language regarding parking improvements.
A bond would be repaid over a 16-year period if voters approve the ballot measure. Someone owning a residence classified as primary and valued at $800,000 would pay an estimated additional $194 annually. Someone owning a commercial property or a vacation home would pay an estimated additional $353 each year.
The City Council received brief comments from ballot measure supporters during a hearing prior to the vote. Niels Vernegaard, an Old Town resident who opposes the Treasure development proposal, thanked the elected officials for the efforts to drop the figure to under $50 million.
The Treasure development rights date to an overall 1980s approval involving the acreage City Hall now wants to acquire and nearby parcels of land. The other parcels were developed over the intervening years, but the bulk of the development rights are attached to the Treasure land itself.
The Treasure partnership of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC for more than a decade pursued a project of approximately 1 million square feet of residences, commercial spaces and convention area. The opponents seized on issues like the traffic the project would generate on streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue, the size of the buildings and the impacts of construction.
Park City leaders in late 2017 were in negotiations with the Treasure partnership about some sort of conservation deal before reaching the $64 million deal in January.
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Park City officials are expected to present information about upcoming work on the Treasure acreage designed to guard against a wildfire, as well as a series of other City Hall projects and programs, at an open house that is scheduled next week.