Park City mayor: Treasure price tag ‘huge,’ so are project impacts
Mayor Andy Beerman, the leader of City Hall’s efforts to acquire Treasure in a conservation deal, made a wide range of statements about the agreement during a Tuesday evening forum, essentially outlining what will likely be the arguments in favor of a ballot measure to fund the purchase.
Beerman participated in a panel discussion hosted by the municipal government at the Park City Library centered on the proposed $64 million acquisition of the Treasure land, located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The other panelists have had important roles in the Treasure talks over the years, but Beerman’s presence was especially notable since he is seen as one of the City Hall figures most closely associated with the negotiations with the Treasure partnership that led to the deal.
All of the panelists support the deal as well as the ballot measure City Hall will put to voters in November to fund most of the acquisition cost. They covered numerous topics during what was the most important gathering about Treasure since a series of midwinter City Hall meetings that dealt with the acquisition.
A key point at the open house on Tuesday, and one that will likely be widely discussed during the campaign season, centers on the price and the impact on property taxes. The price tag that will be attached to a ballot measure — a bond vote — is not yet set but is expected to range between $50 million and $55 million.
The impact on property taxes will not be known with certainty until a figure is finalized, but the municipal government has said a successful $50 million ballot measure is estimated to result in a $200 increase in taxes annually on a primary residence with a value of $768,000. A vacation home or commercial property with the same value would be charged an additional $364 annually, officials have estimated. The bond would be repaid over a 15-year period.
Beerman outlined that people who own residences classified as primary would pay a combined $8 million of the overall total if the ballot measure is set at $55 million. Primary residences are taxed at a greatly reduced rate compared to vacation homes or commercial properties, leading to the disparity in the numbers. The rest of the total — approximately $47 million — would be paid by the vacation-home owners and owners of commercial properties, according to the calculations. Still, the mayor acknowledged the $64 million figure, which would be, by a wide margin, the most expensive deal in the history of Park City’s conservation program.
“$64 million is a huge price tag,” the mayor said, adding that Treasure, if developed, would have “huge impacts” on the community.
He also said the acquisition would be expensive, but Park City has long attempted to preserve Old Town. He predicted Treasure would have effects on traffic, small businesses and the historic character of the neighborhood.
The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured development rights on the Treasure land and nearby parcels and spent more than a decade in talks with the Park City Planning Commission about a proposal involving approximately 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. Only modest progress was made during the discussions as the Planning Commission and opponents, many living on nearby streets, seized on issues like traffic and the size of the proposed buildings. City Hall and the Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, reached the $64 million deal as the Planning Commission appeared to be readying to cast a “Nay” vote.
The panel on Tuesday was held during a lull in the Treasure discussions — after the agreement was reached and before the campaign season starts in earnest — but the topic is expected to return to prominence as the numbers are finalized and then the arrival of the traditional start of the fall election season after Labor Day.
The event drew a crowd of approximately 65 people from various neighborhoods. Members of a group opposed to the Treasure development were in attendance as were City Hall officials. The crowd appeared to be heavily weighted toward supporters of an acquisition, something the development opposition has long desired.
The panelists each has or had an official role in Treasure over the years, and, collectively, their involvement in the project stretched from the early talks about the development itself in the 1980s to the current debate about the acquisition.
“It has not gotten easier over time,” the mayor said about the Treasure discussions.
The others provided input fashioned to their own Treasure expertise as they spoke about the project history and talks as of now.
Rory Murphy, a developer who once served on the Planning Commission, told the crowd it is wrong for someone to anticipate Treasure would not be built based on the expected cost of construction.
“It’s very economically feasible,” Murphy said, adding that the real estate market in Park City is hot and there are firms that could develop Treasure. “That money is here in Park City right now.”
Adam Strachan, a former Planning Commissioner who was the chair of the panel during important points of the Treasure talks, said there was not an opportunity for the Planning Commission to cast an “absolute ‘No’” on Treasure since there was an approval of development rights in the 1980s.
Ann MacQuoid, who was a City Councilor during the 1980s-era Treasure discussions, recounted some of the talks at that time, saying the officials then did not want a development that climbed the hillside and preferred clustering a project at the base of the land. She also talked about the anticipated impacts of Treasure construction on Main Street and streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue.
Nate Rockwood, a City Hall budget staffer with duties related to the financial aspects of the deal, told the crowd Park City has a diverse property-tax base, has a high bond rating and said other property-tax increases approved by Park City voters will expire as those bonds are paid off during the years that a Treasure bond would be repaid.
Becca Gerber, a first-term member of the Park City Council who is seen as bringing a younger person’s perspective to the Marsac Building, will seek reelection this year.