Park City Treasure deal backers vie to draft statement for ‘Yes’ side
Five people by Friday morning had signaled their interest in drafting an argument in favor of the City Hall ballot measure that would fund most of the cost of the acquisition of Treasure in a conservation deal as well a contribution to an unrelated open space deal in Thaynes Canyon.
According to the Summit County Clerk’s Office, the five are: Niels Vernegaard, John Stafsholt, Rory Murphy, Arnie Rusten and Cindy Matsumoto. Vernegaard, Stafsholt and Rusten are heavily involved in the opposition to the Treasure development proposal. Murphy is a developer and a former member of the Park City Planning Commission who has expressed concerns about Treasure for years. Matsumoto is a former member of the Park City Council who was in office during some of the discussions about Treasure. Vernegaard, Stafsholt and Rusten have appeared to follow Treasure more intensely over the years of the discussions, but Murphy and Matsumoto bring the experience of having served in public office during the Treasure talks.
It has been expected there would be several people interested in drafting the argument in favor of the ballot measure, but it was not clear whose names would potentially be attached to the statement. Some of the people who have expressed interest are involved with a group known as the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, which opposes the Treasure development proposal and supports the ballot measure.
It is not clear whether the people who signaled an interest in drafting the argument will cooperate as they move forward. Summit County Clerk Kent Jones will need to select one person to draft the statement. The statements can be co-signed, meaning there is the possibility the five who are interested could partner as they write the argument.
In an interview, Stafsholt said the statement from the side that supports the ballot measure could broach the idea of “our sense of community, our history of successfully protecting open space.”
He said a statement could outline Park City’s budget strengths, including what he considers to be low property-tax rates. He said the statement may also discuss the benefits of open space, pointing to the McPolin Farm and acreage in Round Valley.
Stafsholt also said it could address some of the details of the Treasure development proposal. He outlined the excavation of the land, including through the use of explosives, could last up to six years. The excavation would be followed with a “massive construction project” that would also last for years. He said a Treasure development would increase traffic and require lots of water.
Vernegaard said in an interview he would address similar issues, noting the traffic and “the blasting that would have to go on.” He noted the dump trucks that would drive to and from the construction zone as well as the traffic Treasure would be anticipated to generate should it be developed.
“The arguments remain the same. If Treasure Hill is built, we feel it would be a disaster,” he said.
He also said the quality of life in Park City would be boosted if the ballot measure is approved and the land is acquired for conservation purposes. Vernegaard said Parkites are pleased with the lands that were acquired after voters approved earlier ballot measures to fund open space buys.
Rusten, meanwhile, mentioned earlier acquisitions like the McPolin Farm, Round Valley acreage and Bonanza Flat as he prepares to draft a statement in support of the ballot measure.
“I certainly feel there is tremendous value to open space preservation,” he said.
Rusten has a background in engineering and construction, and some of his testimony regarding the Treasure development proposal focused on those sorts of issues. He said the construction of Treasure would be devastating.
“Impact that, in my opinion, will really paralyze the town,” Rusten said, describing Treasure as “so large and overwhelming” and questioning the overall project. “I just don’t see it workable at all.”
Some of the arguments in the statement from the side supporting the ballot measure will likely be similar to those the opposition to the Treasure development proposal made during the years of Planning Commission meetings. Testimony at the meetings, including comments from people interested in crafting the statement, focused on topics like traffic, the excavation and the overall size of the Treasure proposal.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council negotiated a $64 million agreement to acquire the land from the Treasure partnership. The partnership involves the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC. A conservation deal would block the possibility of a development encompassing approximately 1 million square feet. The ground is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift.
The ballot measure is priced at $48 million with the remainder of the funds coming from other municipal sources.
The deadline for a postmark for someone to formally request the chance to submit an argument to the Clerk’s Office is Saturday if the request is sent through the mail. The deadline is Sept. 4 by 5 p.m. if the request is made through email.
The arguments would be used in a pamphlet of election information that is sent to registered Park City voters and posted on the municipal website.
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Park City recently detailed the efforts to fill a range of vacant municipal posts in 2018 and 2019 as officials described the challenges City Hall has encountered in its hiring amid a hot economy.