Park City Treasure ballot measure: and if voters say ‘Nay?’
October 20, 2018
A development dispute that has stretched since the 1980s would suddenly end if Park City voters approve the ballot measure that would fund most of the cost of the acquisition of the hotly contested Treasure land in a conservation deal.
But if the voters say 'Nay' to the $64 million deal on Election Day, the discussions about the Treasure development would quickly re-launch under a negotiated timeline that calls for a vote by the Park City Planning Commission in March, at the latest.
It would be an extraordinary process that would almost certainly be a tension-filled timeline. It would stretch through what are typically some of the busiest times of the year in Park City as the calendar moves from the holidays, through the Sundance Film Festival, Presidents Day weekend and then spring break.
As Park City could be bursting at the seams, and Parkites busy with their work, the Planning Commission would be preparing to cast a monumental vote on Treasure. It would be the most significant development decision in a generation, since the 1990s-era vote on the project that was built as Empire Pass.
As the sides in the discussions about the $48 million ballot measure that would fund most of the cost of the acquisition gird for the final weeks of the campaign, some are noting the condensed timeline that would be required of the Planning Commission should voters reject the deal. The timeline is not one of the crucial issues for either side, but there have been scattered mentions recently.
City Hall negotiated the timeline as part of the overall agreement to acquire Treasure. A ballot measure was needed to fund the deal from the start of the negotiations, and Park City officials and the Treasure partnership as part of the talks crafted the schedule.
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The agreement requires the Planning Commission hold, at most, three public hearings prior to casting a vote. The date of the vote is identified as, at the latest, March 20, 2019. An appeal of a Planning Commission vote, which would be likely in the Treasure case, must be decided by six months after the filing of the challenge. If it is not decided by then, the Treasure partnership would not be required to reduce the overall project by the 10 percent City Hall secured as part of the agreement in exchange for a $6 million down payment.
The condensed timeline was meant to assuage the Treasure side. The Treasure partnership, involving the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, spent years in meetings with the Planning Commission with only limited progress as the panel and project critics raised doubts about issues like traffic and the square footage.
It appeared the Planning Commission was readying for a vote when the panel's review was halted as City Hall reached a conservation agreement. The Planning Commission talks were stopped likely within weeks of a vote after a review that lasted more than a decade with several lengthy gaps in the discussions.
The Treasure side wanted a condensed timeline that required a vote by a certain date rather than an open-ended process that could have extended for months as the Planning Commission continued its discussions. The Treasure side appeared frustrated with the panel's drawn-out talks as they wore on.
If the ballot measure fails, the Treasure side would return to the Planning Commission with a modified project reduced by the 10 percent required as part of the agreement. A member of the Treasure partnership recently said the reduced proposal would involve 903,648 square feet with a redone design from the one that was under consideration when the talks with the Planning Commission were halted.
The agreement outlines another unorthodox clause involving the roster of the Planning Commission. It allows the City Council to reseat the Planning Commission that was in office at the time the Treasure discussions were halted. There has been turnover on the panel since then, and the elected officials included the clause to ensure the Planning Commissioners most familiar with Treasure would be the ones casting the vote.
Former Planning Commissioner Steve Joyce, who is now a City Councilor, could be among those reseated. Another former Planning Commissioner who could be reseated, Adam Strachan, was the panel chair during some of the key points of the talks.
Strachan said in an interview the timeline would be "very constricted" as the Planning Commission crafts the documentation that accompanies any vote. He said the panelists would address issues that were heavily discussed during the earlier meetings, such as the traffic Treasure would generate, the excavation and the overall size and scale of the project.
"We would have to work very, very hard," he said.