Park City voters: up or down on Treasure deal?
November 3, 2018
Park City voters on Tuesday will decide whether to fund a $64 million acquisition of the Treasure acreage on a hillside overlooking Old Town, a ballot measure that, locally, overshadowed the political campaigns and one that will either end a development debate that has stretched since the 1980s or propel the sides into a manic four months that will culminate with a momentous City Hall panel vote on the development proposal itself.
The stakes on Tuesday are almost certainly well known to the Park City electorate after a campaign that essentially started in the winter, as City Hall reached the $64 million agreement with the Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC. The supporters mobilized early, arguing Treasure would be devastating if it is built as envisioned, while opponents who are worried about increased taxes rallied in the waning weeks of the campaign.
If the ballot measure is approved, City Hall would finalize the acquisition of the high-profile hillside in what would be, by a wide margin, the most expensive conservation deal in the history of the municipal government's lauded open space program. The acquisition would end a development dispute that dates to a 1980s overall approval for the Treasure land and nearby parcels. Should voters reject the ballot measure, the Treasure side would return to its discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about a residential and commercial project along the route of the Town Lift. The development would be located off Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue, and it would be highly visible from numerous points in Old Town, the Aerie and elsewhere.
The project was for years envisioned as approximately 1 million square feet, but the square footage number was reduced over time to the 948,730 square feet that was most recently under consideration. The City Hall agreement with the Treasure partnership calls for a 10 percent reduction should the ballot measure fail in exchange for the municipal government's $6 million down payment.
The supporters say the project would overwhelm surrounding Old Town with tall buildings and traffic. They say the construction impacts would also be ruinous to the community. But others see the impacts as isolated and claim the acquisition at $64 million would disproportionately benefit Old Town.
City Hall estimates the owner of a property classified as a primary home and assessed at $800,000 would pay an additional $194 per year in property taxes over the 15-year term of the repayment. The owner of a vacation home or a commercial property of the same value would pay an estimated additional $353 per year over the 15-year repayment.
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The supporters argue the additional property taxes are worth the cost to block the project. They say Park City residents can afford the increase. They also note that the property-tax burden inside Park City will fall over time as earlier successful ballot measures that raised taxes are retired. But the opposition has outlined worries that an appraisal has not been made public and say the reduction in property taxes over time would broadly benefit the affordability of Park City should the ballot measure fail on Tuesday.
If the ballot measure is successful, City Hall would also make a contribution of up to $3 million to an unrelated conservation agreement in Thaynes Canyon, known as Snow Ranch Pasture.
Should voters on Tuesday reject the ballot measure, the Planning Commission would review Treasure on an expedited timeline after the discussions between the panel and the Treasure side stretched for more than a decade of on-and-off talks. City Hall and the Treasure partnership negotiated a date of, at the latest, March 20, 2019, for the Planning Commission vote.
The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured the overall approval for development. Other locations involved in the 1980s approval were developed long ago, but the bulk of the rights dating to the 1980s are attached to the Treasure land.
The Summit County Clerk's Office is administering the election through the mail. The postmark deadline for ballots is Monday, Nov. 5. Someone may drop off their ballot at the Marsac Building by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6.