Park City mayor confronts ‘we are paying too much’ for Treasure chatter
Mayor Andy Beerman in recent months has spoken about the myths he hears about Treasure, an important point when he makes comments about the long-disputed development proposal.
The mayor returned to the topic in a message to the community that was recently posted on the City Hall website, using the word concerns rather than myths as he addresses rank-and-file Parkites. The message, included in the municipal government’s online news publication for April, appears to attempt to reinforce at least some of the arguments that will be made in coming months as Park City leaders ask voters to approve what will be the community’s largest-ever conservation ballot measure in November to fund the acquisition of the hillside land.
The ballot measure is expected to be the highlight of Election Day in Park City, and more details about the dollar figure and impact on property taxes will be finalized through the upcoming City Hall budget process. The acquisition price is set at $64 million. Officials expect the ballot measure will be pegged at between $50 million and $55 million with decisions looming regarding the remainder of the sum.
The mayor’s online message focuses on two points he and others at City Hall have long argued are critical to understanding the negotiations that led to the $64 million agreement as well as the dollar figure attached to the deal itself.
In one of the points, Beerman wants to debunk the idea that the Treasure partnership, involving the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, cannot build on the land. The partnership was pursuing an approximately 1 million-square-foot project on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift at the time the sides reached the conservation deal. Critics of the development proposal had for years contended that the terrain is too steep for a project of that size.
Beerman, though, argues otherwise in his message. He says development has occurred elsewhere in Park City after people believed the land could not be built upon. The message notes Old Town, Deer Valley, the Aerie and Empire Pass as examples.
“For as long as I can recall, that very same argument has been made in other parts of Park City. Yet those arguments, while strong and convincing at the time, always seem to be proven wrong,” he says. “I think the rising property values and construction technology have made the improbable possible and even lucrative.”
He says the developments in difficult spots elsewhere in Park City are “stark examples of what the talented development community can accomplish with time, money, and regulatory approvals.”
The other point addresses the $64 million price tag. It would be, by a wide margin, the most expensive land acquisition in the history of City Hall’s vaunted open space program. The mayor says he has heard a concern that “we are paying too much.” He says there has been a series of appraisals over time and officials consulted people in the real estate industry.
“While we are confident in the valuation, ultimately $64 million was the best price we could negotiate for a 100-percent buyout to permanently retire all density and preserve all 105 acres as open space,” the message says. “Yes the price is steep. But this is not the first time we have considered digging deep to protect the wild places we hold dear and to preserve the character of Park City.”
Beerman, meanwhile, tells readers Treasure is “one of my favorite places to walk.”
“I live only steps from Main Street, but hiking through Treasure Hill is a daily reminder of the solace we find in our wild spaces,” he says.
The message was posted during a lull in the discussions about Treasure. There had been building buzz about Treasure through much of 2017, culminating with the $64 million agreement reached in January. In the approximately three months since the agreement, officials have dealt with Treasure matters such as the removal of the acreage from a municipal program that allows certain landowners to shift development rights to a spot deemed more suitable for growth.
But there is expected to be renewed interest as the mayor and the Park City Council address the gap in funding during the budget talks later in the spring and early in the summer and then set a final amount for the ballot measure. The impact on property taxes if voters pass a ballot measure will be detailed in coming months as well.
The mayor in an interview said the timing of the message was based on the fast-approaching budget talks as well as the questions he is fielding in the community about Treasure. He also said he has spoken to community groups recently, covering Treasure alongside topics like City Hall’s priorities, the prospects of a bid for the Winter Olympics and plans to develop an arts and culture district.
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