Park City panel could soon preview momentous Treasure vote | ParkRecord.com

Park City panel could soon preview momentous Treasure vote

Planning Commission criticism continues with two weeks until decision

The Park City Planning Commission next week could signal how it may vote later in December on the bitterly contested Treasure development proposal, leaving open the possibility the sides in the dispute will be given a preview of the momentous decision by the end of next Wednesday.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday held another lengthy meeting about Treasure as the seven members ready for a vote that could be cast Dec. 13 after more than a decade of on-and-off discussions about the project. The Treasure partnership wants a decision by the end of the year.

Adam Strachan, the chair of the Planning Commission, said members at the next meeting, scheduled Dec. 6, could discuss their leanings as they prepare for a vote the next week. He said the Planning Commission at the Dec. 6 meeting could craft a "decision in form." It was not clear how that sort of statement would come about. It could occur, as examples, in a straw poll of some kind or through comments from the individual Planning Commissioners. If it appears there is a majority of panel members leaning in one direction, the Planning Commission would likely request City Hall staffers return at the Dec. 13 meeting with the documentation needed for a vote, such as a set of findings that support the decision.

It will be the most significant development decision in Park City since the project now known as Empire Pass was approved in the late 1990s. The Treasure proposal involves approximately 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The land is off streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue. The Sweeney family secured an overall approval for the Treasure acreage and nearby parcels of land in the 1980s. Another development permit is needed before the project can proceed. The Treasure land is now under the ownership of a partnership involving the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC.

The Treasure side argues the project meets the 1980s approval and the development would boost business along Main Street. The partnership says the project properly accounts for any increases in traffic with measures like a people mover meant to discourage drivers, the buildings fit against the hillside and the construction is manageable. The opposition, though, has consistently condemned the project, claiming drivers headed to or from Treasure would overwhelm nearby streets, the buildings would loom over Old Town and the construction would be unbearable.

Planning Commission meetings about Treasure have taken on greater urgency as the partnership pressed the panel for a vote before the end of the year. Recent meetings have been grueling affairs as Planning Commissioners attempt to finish their review in time for a vote in December. The crowd in the Park City Council chambers on Wednesday was larger than those at recent Treasure meetings, an indication that many realize the decision is fast approaching.

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The Planning Commission has expressed deep-rooted concerns about Treasure, spending time over the months of the discussions on traffic, the square footage and the construction plans. Panel members have expressed doubts about many of the Treasure details. They have questioned whether the proposal jibes with the 1980s approval, wondered whether the traffic has been properly addressed and, more recently, been critical of the partnership's construction strategy.

The Planning Commission criticism continued on Wednesday. Steve Joyce, a pPlanning cCommissioner, questioned the partnership's proposal to put excavated material on the mountainside, saying the location is outside the boundaries of the land that Treasure is allowed to disturb. Melissa Band, another pPlanning cCommissioner, said the project does not fit with the surroundings as she described the Treasure design as not stepping into the hillside.

Speakers during a hearing on Wednesday outlined their opposition, touching on a variety of points. The testimony throughout the discussions has been heavily weighted toward the opposition, and no supporters spoke on Wednesday. The Planning Commission took more than 90 minutes of testimony.

Nicole Deforge, an attorney who represents the Treasure opposition group Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, argued the 1980s approval calls for the commercial space in the project to be designed for use by people on the Treasure grounds. The proposal, though, would draw people from outside Treasure, she said. The designs do not tuck the project into the hillside and Lowell Avenue is not designed to carry the construction traffic, she said.

Niels Vernegaard, a Lowell Avenue resident, said nearby roads cannot accommodate Treasure-related traffic. He said an ambulance and fire trucks would have difficulty getting through the Treasure traffic.

"It's downright dangerous," he said.

Kyra Parkhurst, who lives on Empire Avenue, urged the Planning Commission to consider the emotional side of the Treasure debate rather than relying exclusively on figures submitted by the developer.

Other points made at the Planning Commission meeting included:

• Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure discussions, explaining the amount of land that has been disturbed in some fashion as other parts of the overall approval were developed over the years. He used a slide to show there have been approximately 41 acres disturbed or graded. The Town Lift route and ski runs account for 17 of the acres, houses and associated land account for 15 acres, municipal water lines add a little more than 3 acres while the rest of the acreage involves roads, power lines and unspecified mining activity. He also showed approximately 41 acres will be disturbed by Treasure itself — 32 acres for ski terrain and nine acres for the development.

• Francisco Astorga, the City Hall planner assigned to Treasure, saying the project is seen as different than other large developments like The Montage Deer Valley based on location. Treasure, he noted, is adjacent to Old Town and historic structures in the neighborhood. Astorga's comment was made amid concerns recently raised by the Treasure side that the review of the project has been especially intense when compared to the other projects.

• the Treasure side discussing the prospects of using explosives during the excavation of the land. Blasting the land with explosives as a part of the excavation has been controversial as people who live nearby worry about noise and vibrations. The Treasure team has said the use of explosives during the excavation would be tightly controlled and would not disrupt the neighborhood. Sweeney said explosives were used during the construction of the Town Lift base, one of the locations involved in the overall 1980s approval that also included the Treasure land itself. Sweeney said using explosives during Treasure work would be sensible since doing so would reduce the time needed for the excavation as compared to employing machinery.