Park City land deal short by nearly $1.5 million as deadline approaches
Utah Open Lands entered March with a gap of nearly $1.5 million as it approaches a deadline at the end of the month to raise the funds needed to finalize a conservation agreement for Snow Ranch Pasture, the acreage on the edge of Thaynes Canyon that Park City voters pledged monies toward in November.
The not-for-profit organization since last summer has mounted an effort to protect Snow Ranch Pasture through an instrument known as a conservation easement. The land would remain under the ownership of two branches of the Armstrong family, but the owners would pledge to forego development.
The agreement is priced at $6 million. City Hall has agreed to contribute up to $3 million of the total. The municipal funds were raised in November when voters approved a $48 million ballot measure, with the bulk of the monies to be put toward the unrelated acquisition of the Treasure acreage on a hillside overlooking Old Town.
Utah Open Lands has mounted an aggressive fundraising campaign to cover the remaining $3 million. The organization was unable to raise the monies by an original deadline of Dec. 15. The deadline was then extended until March 31, leaving less than a month for the money to be raised. Utah Open Lands said this week another extension is currently not under consideration.
Utah Open Lands said an additional $1,469,468 needs to be raised of the overall total of $3 million. The organization fundraising efforts included a late-January letter seeking contributions. The letter, signed by Executive Director Wendy Fisher, indicated the remaining sum at that time would be covered if the people who received the letter each contributed $428.60.
The letter described the 19-acre Snow Ranch Pasture as the “last heirloom farm in the Park City city limits.” The land is off Thaynes Canyon Drive and Three Kings Drive close to the Park City Golf Club. The letter outlines many of the arguments Utah Open Lands and other supporters of the agreement have pressed since the deal was announced last summer. It says the land would be lost to development if the money is not raised.
“Without your help now, traffic congestion, increased infrastructure burdens, and cookie-cutter high-density development will replace the cows, sandhill cranes, moose, elk, deer and the pastures that have remained virtually unchanged since the 1870s,” the letter says.
Fisher in an interview said Utah Open Lands has submitted requests for grant funding from unspecified foundations totaling more than $650,000. The foundations are primarily based in Utah, she said. Fisher said the organization has arranged upcoming meetings with potentially large contributors. She also said Utah Open Lands continues to receive unsolicited calls from people interested in contributing.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” Fisher said, describing the work on Snow Ranch Pasture as necessitating “all our time and energy.”
Fisher continues to describe the erroneous idea held by some that the Snow Ranch Pasture agreement was fully funded when voters approved the $48 million ballot measure. She said Utah Open Lands must explain the gap in funding to some who are considering a contribution. The thinking that the ballot measure fully funded the agreement has persisted since shortly after Election Day.
The successful ballot measure provided up to 50 percent of the overall $6 million Snow Ranch Pasture price tag, meaning taxpayers have already agreed to what would be the largest funding bloc. Fisher said Utah Open Lands has not requested additional funds from City Hall. The organization could do so eventually if the fundraising falters, but Fisher said there are no current plans to approach Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council about a further contribution of taxpayer funds.
It is rare in recent years for a parcel in Park City as large as 19 acres to become available in a conservation agreement. Utah Open Lands has calculated that a project of up to 48 houses is possible on the acreage should the land not be set aside from development. The organization has said the two branches of the Armstrong family has essentially contributed $10 million to the effort by agreeing to a dollar figure below the market price.
An attorney representing a critic of Park City’s plans to build restricted affordable housing in Old Town sent a letter urging officials to meet the same standards that would be required of a private-sector developer in the neighborhood.