Park City mayor dispels Treasure development myths
City Hall and the Treasure partnership have drafted years of reports about the project, made numerous statements and held meeting after meeting centered on the disputed development proposal.
But, according to Mayor Andy Beerman, myths about Treasure remain. During a recent meeting of City Hall’s open space panel, the mayor addressed what he sees as important misunderstandings regarding Treasure. It was an important appearance by the mayor in front of the Citizens Open Space Advisory Committee as Park City continues a series of briefings about City Hall’s $64 million deal to acquire Treasure in a conservation deal.
The acquisition would be, by a wide margin, the most expensive conservation deal in the history of City Hall’s lauded open space program. The deal is expected to be heavily debated in coming months as supporters and opponents press their sides. Beerman’s comments to the panel were not as focused on the benefits of a deal as they were on what he sees as the myths as well as the mechanics of the agreement.
The Treasure land is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured development rights for the hillside as well as nearby parcels of land. Other parts of the 1980s approval were built over the years, but the partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, has been locked in difficult discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about Treasure itself. At upward of 1 million square feet, it is the largest part of the overall approval.
Critics argue the proposal, as designed, is larger than the 1980s approval contemplated. They are worried about traffic on streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue, the required excavation and the size of the proposed buildings, among other issues.
The mayor’s comments about what he considers to be myths about Treasure were an intriguing addition to the debate about the project. He spoke in broad terms but addressed some of the issues that have long been debated.
Beerman, in a critical statement, said there is a myth regarding the validity of the development rights themselves. He acknowledged significant entitlements remain intact from the 1980s approval. City Hall would likely lose in court if officials determined otherwise, he said. There were persistent questions earlier in the Treasure talks about the validity of the rights decades later, but those sorts of issues have not been as pronounced recently.
He described another myth as he spoke about the Treasure square footage. The Treasure opposition has consistently argued the approximately 1 million square feet sought by the partnership soars over what the 1980s approval envisioned. The Treasure side claims otherwise. Beerman said the approximately 1 million square feet designed by the partnership is a high number, perhaps by between 5 percent and 10 percent. He later pegged the number at closer to 10 percent.
The mayor said City Hall square-footage calculations do not count space like hallways, parking areas and the so-called back of house area that is needed to operate a high-end lodging property. Other large hotel projects in Park City received approvals using a similar formula, and it would be inconsistent for Treasure to be rejected based on that issue while other projects have been approved, Beerman said.
He talked about another myth that centers on construction on the steep Treasure hillside. Some have claimed it would be too difficult to build at the location based on the topography while the Treasure side has argued the project could be constructed. Beerman said developers have built in difficult locations elsewhere in Park City. He noted the location of the Montage Deer Valley.
Beerman’s description of the myths was the highlight of his remarks to the panel. The appearance, in front of a friendly crowd, provided the opportunity for the mayor to address topics that could arise repeatedly before Election Day, when City Hall will ask voters to approve a ballot measure funding the acquisition.
In another important statement, the mayor addressed concerns that City Hall wants voters to approve a high-dollar ballot measure for Treasure as the Park City School District contemplates a significant bond election as well for facility upgrades. It is not clear when the School District bond will be put to voters. Beerman noted the municipality, where the Treasure vote will be held, comprises only part of the School District boundaries. He predicted voters will support the Treasure ballot measure as well as one for the schools.
“I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” Beerman said.
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.