Park City Treasure deal critic: dishwashers, lifties will be hurt the most
One of the leading critics of Park City’s planned acquisition of the Treasure land in a conservation deal predicted on Wednesday costs in the community will rise as property owners increase rates to cover the additional taxes voters approved on Tuesday to fund the acquisition.
Mark Stemler is a Main Street building owner and was one of the visible opponents of the $64 million City Hall agreement to acquire Treasure and the $48 million ballot measure to fund most of the cost that voters approved by a wide margin Tuesday. He said owners of residential and commercial properties will hike lease rates to ensure their profit margins remain intact. That will impact the residential and commercial tenants and, in the case of commercial properties, the customers will be impacted, he said.
“This gets passed on to the consumer,” Stemler said. “Everything goes up. … When it gets more expensive, you pass it on to the consumer.”
He also said City Hall’s overall spending habits amount to a “shakedown of a wealthy community.” The multimillionaires of Park City will not suffer financially as a result of the ballot measure’s passage, but those who are not as rich will, he said, anticipating a trickle-down effect as rates are adjusted to account for the increase.
“The people that feel it are the people washing our dishes, the people loading our ski lifts,” Stemler said, adding, “Our most vulnerable citizens feel it the worst.”
Stemler during the final stretch of the campaign emerged as a key detractor of the $64 million agreement between City Hall and the Treasure partnership, describing the deal as “excessive and indulgent.” He led an October event on Main Street that outlined the opposition’s side amid a well-organized effort in support of the ballot measure.
Stemler supports the acquisition of Treasure but is critical of the way the deal is crafted. He wanted voters to reject the ballot measure, saying doing so would have allowed more time for negotiations. He said there “wasn’t any creativity” in the agreement negotiated by the Park City leaders.
Stemler argued City Hall could have brought a case against the Treasure partnership using the state’s eminent domain process, which allows a government body like a municipality to seize private property if doing so is determined to be for the good of the public. Others countered that Stemler did not understand the intricacies of the state law and argued eminent domain was not possible in the case of Treasure.
Stemler also outlined an option that called for City Hall acquiring the Treasure land and then selling a small portion of the acreage for development. The proceeds raised in the sale of a small portion of the land would have brought down the overall cost to taxpayers under Stemler’s scenario.
“They needed an out. They needed a reset. They were scared. They were paralyzed by the deal,” he said.
Stemler said leaders crafted the agreement as it was put to voters “rather than give you some reasonable options.” He has previously referred to the situation as either voting in favor of the ballot measure “or drink cyanide.”
The opposition to the ballot measure appeared segmented throughout the campaign as no formal group organized to counterbalance the supporters, who rallied early with the backing of not-for-profit organizations. The opposition centered on issues like the tax increase, the impact of higher property taxes on the affordability of Park City and, toward the end of the campaign, the lack of a recent appraisal of the Treasure acreage.
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