Park City Treasure deal: Lack of appraisal called into question | ParkRecord.com

Park City Treasure deal: Lack of appraisal called into question

Park City voters are casting ballots on what would be, by a wide margin, City Hall's priciest conservation acquisition.

The municipal government's deal to acquire the Treasure land on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift, pegged at $64 million, depends on a $48 million ballot measure that would provide most of the funding.

Leaders say the $64 million is an appropriate price given the location on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort and the substantial development rights that are attached to the land. The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, would be the seller.

City Hall, however, did not conduct an appraisal of the land as part of the negotiations that led to the $64 million agreement. The municipal government in mid-October responded to a Park Record request for a copy of an appraisal under state open-records laws by indicating City Hall "has not had an appraisal performed for Treasure for the bond purchase."

The lack of an appraisal has been a peripheral issue in the debate about the ballot measure, but it was one of the topics broached during a Wednesday gathering organized by an opponent of the acquisition at the $64 million price.

State law allows a public body like the municipal government to conduct negotiations involving land in closed-door meetings. The allowance is meant to protect sensitive negotiations, including prices and appraisals, from potential competitors interested in the same land.

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It is believed City Hall's most recent appraisal of the Treasure land was conducted in 2010 or 2011. It appeared a conservation agreement was possible at that time, but those negotiations ended without one. The appraisal was not made public.

At that time, the Treasure partnership priced a deal for the land at approximately $93 million, a figure so high that City Hall ended its efforts to acquire the land until the present $64 million deal was negotiated years later. In late 2011, Dana Williams, the mayor of Park City at that time, said the appraisals conducted on behalf of City Hall and the Treasure partnership were far apart in their numbers. He said at the time there was a difference of more than $10 million between the two appraisals with the one produced on behalf of the Treasure side being the higher one.

The subject of an appraisal suddenly became more noteworthy this week than it had been during the months of the debate about a Treasure ballot measure. The Wednesday gathering, organized by a ballot measure opponent, Old Town resident and Main Street building owner Mark Stemler, drew approximately 15 people.

Some of the crowd members engaged in a lively debate about an appraisal amid the broader discussion of the Treasure deal.

An audience member, David Nadler, was especially interested in the topic. He owns commercial property in Park City and elsewhere in Utah. Angela Moschetta, a Future Park City activist, also noted the issue of an appraisal. Nadler urged City Hall to conduct an appraisal while Moschetta argued appraisals are not made public. Others in the crowd talked over one another for a brief time as they debated a Treasure appraisal. Moschetta and Sarah Berry, another Future Park City activist, went back and forth with others as the topic was addressed.

Nadler argued the land should be valued at a figure in the range of $30 million. Moschetta countered with a number in the $90 million range, citing news coverage detailing the earlier talks.

In an interview, Nadler said he based his figure of approximately $30 million on his background as an owner of commercial property in Park City and talks he has had with developers. He said an appraisal would "educate everybody."

"We don't know. Let's go get an appraisal. That's the only solution," he said, adding, "Everybody gets appraisals. Why wouldn't the town get an appraisal?"

He said he supports the City Hall acquisition of Treasure but not the price tag.

"How can you ask 7,000 people to vote . . . when they're not educated on the facts? Nothing's been transparent," Nadler said.