UPDATE: Park City leaders opt for $48 million bond, nearly all for Treasure
Park City leaders on Thursday signaled they would ask voters in November to approve a $48 million ballot measure with intentions to put nearly all the funds toward an acquisition of the Treasure land for conservation purposes if the measure passes, essentially ending months of financial maneuvering as officials attempted to reduce the figure that will be on the ballot.
The Park City Council decision on the dollar figure was critical, and Parkites of various political stripes had been awaiting a final number. The recent addition of an unrelated conservation deal involving acreage in Thaynes Canyon further complicated the discussions. The $48 million would fund most of the cost of the $64 million deal for Treasure as well as up to $3 million of the $6 million price tag Utah Open Lands negotiated to set aside from development land called Snow Ranch Pastures in Thaynes Canyon through a tool known as a conservation easement.
The elected officials considered a series of figures in the months after the $64 million agreement for Treasure was reached. At one point there was a range of between $50 million and $55 million followed by a focus on $50.7 million. City Hall staffers earlier in the week outlined $2.7 million in reductions or other funding sources, dropping the number to the $48 million the City Council agreed to pursue from voters.
A City Council straw poll was 4-1 with Lynn Ware Peek dissenting. Peek said her resistance was based on a desire to represent Park City people who have indicated they did not want the Snow Ranch Pastures deal combined with Treasure on the ballot, describing that Treasure was the goal of the efforts. Other elected officials expressed at least some level of concern in combining the two but wanted to move forward with a ballot measure involving both of the lands. City Councilor Tim Henney mentioned it is more difficult to explain a combined ballot measure while Steve Joyce, another City Councilor, said he is a “big fan of simple.”
City Hall staffers plan to return to the City Council on Aug. 16 with a resolution and the ballot measure’s language. A City Council vote at that meeting would formalize the decision and put the measure, a bond, to voters on Election Day.
A successful $48 million ballot measure would result in a property-tax increase of $194 annually on a $799,214 residence classified as primary. The owner of a vacation home or commercial property with the same value would pay another $353 each year. The bond would be paid off over a 15-year term.
The Treasure land is situated on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall development approval for the Treasure acreage as well as nearby parcels and years later sold a 50 percent stake in Treasure to another firm, called Park City II, LLC, to form the Treasure partnership. The Treasure side spent more than a decade in discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about a project encompassing upward of 1 million square feet of residences, commercial spaces and convention space. The Planning Commission and people on nearby streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue have been deeply critical of the proposal, arguing the project would loom above Old Town and overwhelm streets with traffic.
Park City leaders and the Treasure partnership eventually entered into a high-stakes set of negotiations about a conservation deal. There were several ideas before an agreement was reached in January at the $64 million figure.
The elected officials received approximately 20 minutes of testimony supporting the acquisitions. John Stafsholt, a member of a group that opposes the Treasure development proposal, said people do not complain about City Hall’s previous conservation acquisitions like the McPolin Farm while Ed Parigian, another critic of the Treasure development blueprints, said the priority should be the hillside land.
“Treasure Hill first,” Parigian said.
Adam Strachan, who served on the Planning Commission during some of the important Treasure discussions, said the ballot measure will be the “last big one” for City Hall’s conservation deals. He said the inclusion of Snow Ranch Pastures will put Thaynes Canyon voters in play.
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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.