Park City planning panel sets tentative date for Treasure vote
Tentative timeline leaves less than a month before landmark vote on project
November 10, 2017
The Park City Planning Commission discussions about Treasure, which have stretched for more than a decade with several starts and stops over the years, appear to be fast approaching a finale.
The panel on Wednesday held a lengthy meeting about Treasure and, toward the end of the evening, briefly addressed the timeline. It appears there could be three more meetings with Treasure on the agenda, and a vote could be scheduled at the third one. It will be perhaps the most significant development vote by the panel since the 1990s era decisions regarding the project that was eventually built as Empire Pass.
The Planning Commission indicated it would discuss Treasure at a meeting on Nov. 29, followed by a special work session centered on Treasure on Dec. 6. The Planning Commission would then be expected to cast a vote at a Dec. 13 meeting. The timeline, which is tentative, leaves less than a month before the landmark vote would be cast.
The discussions date to 2004 and have stretched through numerous Planning Commission rosters. A vote on Dec. 13 would ensure Park City Councilor-elect Steve Joyce, who is a member of the Planning Commission, is one of the panelists to decide Treasure. The City Council has kept the current lineup of the Planning Commission intact to ensure there are not changes in the membership amid the Treasure discussions.
The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, is seeking a permit to develop 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 development approval for the Treasure land and nearby parcels, but another, more detailed permit is needed before the project can proceed.
Partnership representatives in recent months have seemed more urgent in their desire for a vote than at any other point in the talks. The Treasure side earlier indicated it would consider invoking a section of state law that allows a developer to force a planning commission into a decision. At one point last summer, it seemed that the partnership would invoke the right to force a decision that would have resulted in a vote on Wednesday, the day after Election Day.
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The dates that were discussed on Wednesday appeared satisfactory to the Treasure side. The developer and the Planning Commission have said a vote sometime before the end of the year is desired, and the Dec. 13 meeting is the last regular one scheduled in 2017. The Planning Commission decision will almost certainly be appealed. The developer would appeal a vote against the project while Treasure critics would challenge an approval, likely extending the Treasure debates well into 2018.
A vote on Dec. 13 would also add an element of excitement to the Marsac Building at a time when many are preparing for the normally busy holidays. The meeting itself would be expected to draw a large crowd to witness such a momentous vote, and any appeal would be filed quickly afterward. A three-person panel appointed by the City Council would then be seated.
The meeting on Wednesday was another grueling affair as the Planning Commission and the Treasure side attempt to close a wide gap in opinions about the project in a matter of weeks. The Treasure partnership sees the project as something that jibes with the 1980s approval. The Planning Commission and the Treasure opposition argue otherwise. The proposal involves residences, commercial square footage and convention space.
One of the key sticking points has long been the square footage. The Treasure side argues the numbers were contemplated in the 1980s approval while the opposition claims a project the size of the Treasure proposal was not anticipated at that time. There are also stark differences in opinions regarding the traffic the project is expected to attract to streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue as well as the building designs. The Treasure side, meanwhile, earlier in the week questioned whether the Planning Commission was treating the project differently than other large development proposals, such as by dwelling on details that other projects did not have to address at the same point of the planning process.
Planning Commissioners on Wednesday continued to express concerns about a range of issues. Laura Suesser, a Planning Commissioner, worried about Treasure's excavation plans and what she sees as an excavation's impact on open space. Planning Commissioner John Phillips said it is unclear how a project the size of Treasure would fit in the location. Joyce inquired about the project's limits of disturbance, a term used to describe how much land will be impacted by construction. Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure talks, told Joyce a construction firm assisted as the proposed limits of disturbance were crafted.
The Planning Commission also took testimony from project critics. John Stafsholt, an Old Town resident, claimed the excavation proposal involves a deeper dig in an attempt to fit taller buildings in the project. Arnie Rusten, who lives on Lowell Avenue, said additional details are needed about the methods that would be used to transport excavated materials. Rusten also worried about the stability of the sloping hillside and outlined concerns about the potential impact on a City Hall drinking-water source. Nicole Deforge, an attorney retained by a Treasure opposition group, described Treasure as incompatible with surrounding Old Town and questioned whether the development's proposed work force housing satisfies requirements based on the amount of commercial space that is sought.