Park City Treasure vote: a pocketbook decision or a planning one?
The hillside Treasure development proposal would involve buildings overlooking Old Town.
There would be traffic increases and years of construction.
But as Park City voters prepare to vote on a ballot measure that would provide most of the funding to acquire Treasure in a conservation deal, it could be for some a pocketbook decision rather than a planning one.
As the community enters the crucial stretch of the election season, the idea of a successful ballot measure’s impact on the affordability of Park City could become more prominent than it has been during the months of discussions about the prospects of a conservation deal.
There have been scattered comments about the impact on affordability, but an Old Town resident recently broached the topic directly in comments to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council. Mark Stemler provided a blunt prediction about affordability in Park City should the ballot measure be successful. He essentially told the elected officials rents would increase and goods would cost more as property owners pass the tax increase on to renters or businesses that hold leases.
It was a brief appearance but one that offered some of the most candid statements in a public forum thus far about the impacts of a successful ballot measure on the affordability of the community.
Park City leaders want voters to approve a $48 million ballot measure that would fund most of the cost of a $64 million acquisition of Treasure as well as a contribution of up to $3 million toward an unrelated conservation agreement in Thaynes Canyon known as Snow Ranch Pasture.
City Hall projects a successful ballot measure would increase property taxes by $194 annually on an $800,000 residence classified as a primary home. The increase is projected to be $353 each year on a vacation home or commercial property with the same value. The bond would be repaid over a term of 15 annual payments.
The supporters of the ballot measure, generally those who oppose the Treasure development proposal, are outlining an argument that holds that the financial impact is worthwhile to block a project they say would have broad repercussions for the community. There have been comments that the tax increase of $194 annually for an $800,000 primary residence is a reasonable sum, perhaps what a dinner on Main Street would cost once a year. Blocking Treasure through a successful ballot measure could also protect property values in Old Town, another angle maintains, as the possibility of a project encompassing upward of 1 million square feet just off some neighborhood streets is ended.
The supporters also outline that property taxes paid to City Hall are expected to fall over time as earlier successful ballot measures are retired, bringing down the cost of ownership.
But others could consider the ballot measure through a different lens of affordability. The Park City housing market is the most expensive in the state, and the rental market is likewise tight. A tax increase would add costs that would be borne by owners. They would then decide whether to increase rates if the property is commercial or a rental. Some current or potential renters or lease holders may see even a small increase as a breaking point in a community considered to be expensive by state and regional standards.
After years of discussions about the details of the Treasure development proposal, then, the decision on Election Day could come down to the pocketbook rather than the project planning.
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When it comes to the U.S. census, let’s just say Park City has… room for improvement.