Park City Treasure deal denounced as secretive, ‘Old Town-centric’
September 1, 2018
Jeff Weissman, an Aspen Springs resident who has lived in Park City for just a few years, is ready to challenge what he sees as the political establishment of the community.
In a message to the Summit County Clerk's Office, Weissman this week formally signaled his interest in drafting an argument against the $48 million City Hall ballot measure to raise most of the funding needed for an acquisition of the Treasure acreage on a hillside overlooking Old Town. A small portion of the money raised — up to $3 million — would be put toward an unrelated conservation agreement in Thaynes Canyon, known as Snow Ranch Pasture.
Weissman, a retired electrician who moved to Park City in 2015 from Houston, was the only person who submitted a message to the Clerk's Office interested in submitting the argument against the ballot measure by Thursday morning. He had not crafted the statement by then. He described himself as neither supporting nor opposing the Treasure development proposal.
Weissman said the statement would touch on issues that, according to him, have not been fully vetted during the talks about what would be, by a wide margin, the largest-ever City Hall conservation ballot measure. He said he wants to discuss issues like the possibility the cost of developing Treasure would render a project unviable and the interest payments on the $48 million bond, or "the true cost of the buyout." Weissman added he does not envision a market for Treasure.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council reached a $64 million agreement to acquire the Treasure land overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The deal depends on a successful ballot measure in November. The seller is the Treasure partnership — the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC. A conservation deal would extinguish the possibility of a development of approximately 1 million square feet.
"I don't think Sweeney has true intentions or desires for a development. I think his true intention and desire is unload the property," Weissman said, arguing that more time is needed to negotiate. "A vote 'No' on the ballot measure allows us to step back from this rush that Mayor Andy is putting on us."
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Weissman said additional time would allow Park City officials to enter into partnerships with other governments or not-for-profit organizations for assistance in the acquisition. He does not oppose a City Hall acquisition of Treasure but said there should be a coalition like the one the municipal government forged to finalize a conservation deal for Bonanza Flat, which involved individuals, businesses and not-for-profit organizations from across the Wasatch Mountain region. He would like Summit County to make a contribution, as an example, describing those outside of Park City as "people who are going to use and come to the land."
"It's putting the whole burden on one ZIP code," he said.
Weissman, meanwhile, argued a Treasure development would not have major Park City-wide impacts should the ballot measure be rejected and the project move forward. He said the impacts of a project would primarily be limited to Old Town.
"Living in Aspen Springs, it's not going to impact me and my neighbors on a daily basis," he said.
Much of the opposition to the Treasure development proposal came from people who live in Old Town, on streets close to the land.
"It is Old Town-centric. Old Town are the most emotional about this. They are the most passionate. They are the supporters. … They are the ones that are nervous," Weissman said, adding people outside of Old Town would not suffer if Treasure is developed. "A Treasure (development) is going to have very little effect on their day-to-day life during construction and after completion."
Other points Weissman outlined included:
• an opposition movement to the ballot measure must organize and he is soliciting assistance in launching one as he prepares to draft the statement.
• the $64 million price tag attached to the Treasure land is more than a third of the $182.5 million paid by Vail Resorts in 2014 to acquire Park City Mountain Resort. The deal for PCMR included the income-producing resort as well as significant development rights at the resort, he noted.
• the agreement between City Hall and the Treasure partnership was "put together too quickly."
"There has been zero transparency about how they came about it," he said.
• the idea that a person who has lived in Park City a relatively short time is readying to draft a statement against the ballot measure.
"It's scary. How so? I'm one person. I'm a new resident. I have only been here for four years. The status quo is to support any land grab at any cost," he said.
The postmark deadline for someone to formally request the opportunity to submit an argument to the Clerk's Office is Saturday if the request is sent via the mail. The deadline is Sept. 4 by 5 p.m. if the request is made via email. The county clerk could select a different argument against the ballot measure if one is submitted.
The argument would be used in a pamphlet of election information that is sent to registered Park City voters and posted on the municipal website.