Park City Treasure talk notes schools bond, landlord perspective
A crowd on Wednesday evening debated City Hall’s proposed $64 million acquisition of Treasure in a conservation deal, covering issues that will be critical during the fall election season as the municipal government asks voters to approve a ballot measure that would fund most of the cost.
The gathering on Wednesday was an important moment in the overall discussions about the Treasure deal as approximately 50 people met on the roof deck of the 820 Park Ave. development, a location that offers the Treasure hillside as a dramatic backdrop.
Mayor Andy Beerman provided an explanation of the proposed acquisition, but the event also highlighted some of the arguments that the supporters of the ballot measure will likely make in the coming months. It also may have provided a preview of the objections opponents may raise. The debate thus far has been heavily weighted toward the supporters of the acquisition.
Rory Murphy, a Park City developer who supports the acquisition, organized the event with the hope the gathering would offer detailed information about the deal regardless of where someone stands on a ballot measure. The event followed more than a month after a City Hall-sponsored gathering centered on Treasure that was held without some of the details of a deal that have since been crafted. It seems likely the Wednesday discussion is the start of a series of similar events that will be held as the election season starts in earnest.
City Hall wants to acquire the land along the route of the Town Lift in a conservation deal after more than a decade of talks between the Treasure partnership and the Park City Planning Commission about a development proposal involving approximately 1 million square feet. The opposition to the development has pressed issues like the traffic the project would generate on streets such as Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue, the height of the proposed buildings and the excavation that would be required. The opposition supports the proposed acquisition.
“This is gong to be a massive impact,” Murphy, a former member of the Park City Planning Commission whose tenure included a portion of the panel’s review of Treasure, told the crowd early during the event on Wednesday, arguing the project “plain doesn’t” work.
The crowd appeared to be heavily weighted toward supporters of a City Hall acquisition of the land, and some who were in attendance make up the core of the opposition to the development proposal. The event provided a chance for audience questions and comments, but it was not held as a formal debate. The questions and comments offered insight into the thinking of some of the people in attendance, but the event did not appear to be the setting for a detailed vetting of the issues.
Some of the comments included a desire to ensure the Treasure land would be available for trail development if City Hall completes an acquisition, a brief explanation that Treasure provides wildlife habitat, a mention of the watershed and a contention that vacationers will opt for competitors like the Colorado mountain resorts of Vail and Aspen during any Treasure construction.
Another topic that was broached, and one that could become crucial to the electorate in the fall, dealt with the prospects of the Park City School District sometime in coming years asking voters to approve a ballot measure to fund capital projects like new or upgraded schools. There is at least some level of worry that voters weighing a decision on Treasure could be influenced by the possibility of the School District presenting a high-dollar bond to voters shortly.
Several highlighted the topic, wondering whether a successful City Hall ballot measure would threaten one from the School District. Murphy, though, said otherwise.
“I don’t think it needs to be an either, or,” he said.
A Park Meadows resident with rental properties in Old Town, Andrew Morphett, provided comments from the perspective of a landlord, indicating he would consider converting the units into places available for rent on a nightly basis rather than continuing to keep them as long-term rentals should the ballot measure be successful.
In an interview afterward, Murphy said the event was successful in allowing people to discuss the various aspects of the Treasure bond as he tried “to get the facts out and listen to what people have to say, positive or negative.”
“I think a lot of great points were aired, and a lot of different people heard and were able to contemplate those points,” he said.
An attorney representing a critic of Park City’s plans to build restricted affordable housing in Old Town sent a letter urging officials to meet the same standards that would be required of a private-sector developer in the neighborhood.