Park City official says full buyout of Treasure is ‘not reality’
December 22, 2017
A leading Treasure opposition figure on Thursday told Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council people in Park City would support the acquisition of all of the development rights attached to the hillside land, a buyout option the opponents have long desired but one that appears highly unlikely in the weeks after City Hall negotiated a different agreement.
Park City officials addressed Treasure on consecutive days this week as the Planning Commission discussed the project on Wednesday followed by the elected officials on Thursday. The meetings were cordial, something that was particularly notable so shortly after a series of tension-filled Planning Commission gatherings about Treasure. The mayor and City Council earlier in December negotiated an agreement calling for the municipal government to acquire a 50 percent stake in Treasure for $30 million.
The agreement hinges on voters in Park City approving a ballot measure in November to raise the funds needed for the acquisition. If the deal is finalized, City Hall would acquire the Sweeney family's stake in Treasure while the other side of the Treasure partnership, a firm called Park City II, LLC, would rework a scaled-back development proposal.
It appears there is concern within the Treasure opposition that voters may not authorize the $24 million needed to reach the $30 million total since half of the development rights would remain intact even if the ballot measure passes. City Hall's popular open space program over the years has been used to acquire land outright or otherwise conserve acreage in perpetuity rather than reducing the scope of a project as in the case of the Treasure deal.
Brian Van Hecke, with a group called the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, on Thursday told the elected officials the tone of the discussions is positive. He said the public would support the acquisition of all of the development rights, but additional rights would remain for a project under the agreement between City Hall and the Treasure partnership. He inquired whether a deal was available to acquire 100 percent of the development rights and asked whether the sides considered tapping a municipal program that allows development rights in certain locations to be shifted to another spot deemed better suited for growth. Van Hecke mentioned the parking lots at Park City Mountain Resort as a place where the Treasure development rights could be shifted.
"Was that an option?" Van Hecke asked about an acquisition of 100 percent of the rights.
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Tim Henney, a City Councilor, addressed the prospects of City Hall acquiring all of the development rights. His statement was blunt.
"Full buyout. Not reality," Henney said.
In an interview after his appearance, Van Hecke said there seems to be more public support for an acquisition involving all of the Treasure development rights, so long as it is a fair deal, than there is for one that secures just half of them. He said if the successful City Hall ballot measure that raised funds for the conservation acquisition of Bonanza Flat had involved a reduction in development rather than the full conservation, there may not have been the same level of support. Van Hecke also said more details are needed about how Treasure would be designed if half of the development rights are acquired and the project is reworked.
The Treasure partnership has been locked in talks with the Planning Commission about a development proposal of upward of 1 million square feet on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure land and nearby parcels and later sold a 50 percent stake to Park City II, LLC. There has been Planning Commission and community resistance to the development proposal as opponents questioned the size of the buildings, the excavation and whether streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue would be overwhelmed by traffic headed to and from the project.
The Sweeney family reached the $30 million deal with City Hall while Park City II, LLC would pursue a reimagined project if the municipal government acquires the family's 50 percent stake. The reimagined project would involve a boutique hotel and 18 houses.
The City Council and the Planning Commission provided initial input about Treasure possibilities, but more talks are expected to unfold at a fast pace starting shortly as the sides decide whether a deal will be pursued for 50 percent of the development rights.
Becca Gerber, a City Councilor, said there has been great progress in the Treasure talks and lots of educational efforts are needed to explain a deal. Another City Councilor, Cindy Matsumoto, said a project would have less impact on the neighborhood if it was reduced in scope. She explained if the hotel envisioned at Treasure were shifted up the hillside, it would be more a part of Park City Mountain Resort than if it was located close to the neighborhood. The Planning Commission the day before was briefed on development concepts should an acquisition be finalized. Treasure critics expressed concern, though, during testimony before the panel. One of the speakers, Steven Swanson, told the Planning Commission the project is "still a big hotel" even if Treasure were to be reworked should the ballot measure pass.