Park City Treasure deal: online arithmetic illustrates the extremes
October 24, 2018
Clarification: The argument attributed to Halsey was originally drafted by Angela Moschetta and posted on the Facebook group Future Park City. It was later posted under Halsey’s name without attribution to the original author. The article has been updated to reflect that.
The debate about Park City's deal to acquire the Treasure acreage in a conservation agreement has centered on a variety of numbers.
There has been lots of chatter about the $64 million price tag as well as the $48 million ballot measure that would fund most of the cost of the City Hall acquisition. Some are focused on the number attached to the square footage of the Treasure development proposal should the ballot measure fail and a project proceed, while others are poring over the impacts on property taxes should the vote be 'Yea' on Election Day.
Two Parkites in recent days posted arguments on social media outlining differing understandings of the situation, using numbers to promote their side of what has become, by a wide margin, the most controversial of City Hall's ballot measures to fund open space purchases. The statements were posted on a social media page created by an opponent of the ballot measure and illustrate the extremes of the sides in the debate.
John Halsey, who supports the ballot measure, and Howard Wallack, an opponent, posted arguments on social media relying on numbers. Both of the posts outline numbers that they contend are substantiated by the market, but neither of the arguments appear to be based explicitly on knowledge of an appraisal of Treasure or similar sorts of information.
The argument Halsey posted, originally written by Angela Moschetta and posted on the Facebook group Future Park City, introduces the numbers with the blunt message of "let's do that math." The argument uses equations based on the size of lots in Old Town and the buildable acreage of Treasure. According to the arithmetic, the buildable acreage of Treasure could hold the equivalent of 232 Old Town lots. The posting says Old Town lots fetch $1 million, putting the value of Treasure at $232 million if the dollar figure is set through the standard of an Old Town lot.
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"SCREAMIN DEAL!" the post says, countering an argument by the opposition that the $64 million price tag is too steep.
The Park Record was unable to contact Halsey for comment.
Wallack sees the deal differently, introducing his statement with the comment of "no one speaks to the real costs." Wallack claims the Treasure side would pay $20 million-plus in impact fees if the project is developed, and a project would add to the Park City tax base.
Wallack also says he anticipates Treasure would not be built, arguing the construction costs would soar above $1 billion. Construction costs in Park City generally do not approach that sort of figure.
"The cost of that kind of project would be in excess of one and a half billion dollars. They could never raise it because it is not economically feasible," Wallack argues.
Wallack lives in the Aerie with a view of the Treasure land. In an interview, he said the City Hall agreement to acquire Treasure is a "horrible, horrible deal." He said he has developed commercial property in Salt Lake City and New York City, giving him knowledge of construction costs, and he has spoken to developer friends who provide him with similar opinions.
"It doesn't pan out from an economic point of view," Wallack said about the Treasure development proposal.
Halsey and Wallack posted the comments at a crucial moment in the debate about the vote on the Treasure deal. The comments were made just as Park City voters were receiving their ballots in the mail and as the debate about the Treasure deal quickly became more contentious than it had been through the summer and early fall. Much of the dispute has centered on financial aspects of the deal ranging from the cost of the acquisition to the impact on property taxes if the ballot measure is successful.
The Treasure partnership spent years in discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about a project that eventually was envisioned as 960,730 square feet on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Planning Commission and project critics had deep-rooted concerns about issues like traffic and the overall size of the proposal. City Hall and the partnership reached the $64 million conservation agreement as the Planning Commission appeared to be nearing what would have been a landmark vote on the development proposal.