Park City pasture’s protection: There is a Plan B if voters say ‘No’
Park City’s planned acquisition of the Treasure land in a conservation deal depends on a Tuesday ballot measure that would provide most of the funding for the $64 million transaction.
But protecting the other piece of ground on the ballot with Treasure does not exclusively rely on the results on Election Day, leaving a Plan B. The 20-acre Snow Ranch Pasture in Thaynes Canyon was added to the discussions about a Treasure ballot measure in the summer, after the not-for-profit Utah Open Lands secured an agreement with the Armstrong family to set aside the land from development through an instrument known as a conservation easement. Up to 48 houses are possible on the Snow Ranch Pasture under the current City Hall zoning at the location, Utah Open Lands has calculated.
The Utah Open Lands agreement with the Armstrong family is priced at $6 million. The organization approached City Hall about a contribution to the efforts, arguing Snow Ranch Pasture is an important tract of land to protect. The Park City Council agreed to a contribution of up to $3 million that could cover 50 percent of the overall cost. The funds would be raised as part of the $48 million ballot measure that was originally designed for the Treasure deal.
If voters reject the ballot measure on Tuesday, Utah Open Lands would continue its efforts to raise the funds needed to secure the conservation easement on Snow Ranch Pasture. The organization under that scenario, though, would need to raise the full $6 million rather than the $3 million envisioned with the passage of the Park City ballot measure. It would be a more difficult task, but likely not a prohibitive one.
Utah Open Lands is amid the fundraising for the $3 million share that funds from a successful ballot measure would not cover. Wendy Fisher, the executive director of the organization, said midweek the efforts have raised $1.2 million, leaving another $1.8 million that is needed. The deadline is Dec. 15. Approximately half of the monies raised thus far — $625,000 — came from a grant from an undisclosed foundation in Utah but outside of Park City or surrounding Summit County. The organization recently announced a foundation in Chicago is poised to provide a $250,000 grant to the Snow Ranch Pasture efforts if Utah Open Lands raises a matching $250,000.
“We knew what we were taking on,” Fisher said about the fundraising.
If the ballot measure is approved, Utah Open Lands would press donors for the remaining $1.8 million that is needed. But if the ballot measure fails, the figure would climb to $4.8 million with the Dec. 15 deadline looming just more than a month after the election.
It would be a tense stretch between Election Day and Dec. 15 in the event of the ballot measure failing as Utah Open Lands reconsiders a strategy. In what would likely be a closely watched step, Fisher said Utah Open Lands would approach City Hall again with a request for a $3 million contribution. She said the request would involve the municipal government’s existing monies for open space.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the City Council at that point would be propelled into another high-profile discussion about conservation funding just days or weeks after what was the most polarizing debate about open space of the decades of City Hall’s lauded conservation program. The elected officials would need to weigh a contribution to the Snow Ranch Pasture efforts against funding for other land agreements that might be under consideration.
The mayor and City Council see Snow Ranch Pasture as an important tract to protect. The elected officials and others talk about the scenic value and the wildlife habitat of the land. It is also rare in recent years for such a large parcel inside the city limits to become available in a conservation agreement. The land is located off Thaynes Canyon Drive and Three Kings Drive close to the Park City Golf Club.
It seems likely the elected officials would agree to make some sort of financial contribution to the Utah Open Lands efforts, perhaps at the full $3 million figure, but that would not be known with certainty until the mayor and City Council debate the possibilities in the event of the ballot measure failing.
The Snow Ranch Pasture’s inclusion on the ballot measure was overshadowed throughout the election season by Treasure. The $64 million agreement for Treasure would be, by a wide margin, the most expensive of City Hall’s conservation acquisitions, topping the $38 million paid for Bonanza Flat in Wasatch County. The Treasure land is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. A City Hall acquisition would end a long-running development dispute with the Treasure partnership.
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The Park City Council primary election is slated for Aug. 13, but the ballots in the vote-by-mail contest were scheduled to be sent on Tuesday. The Summit County Clerk’s Office anticipates the ballots will arrive in mailboxes and post-office boxes on Friday or Saturday.