Park City weighs pricier Treasure bond to assist unrelated land deal
Park City leaders on Thursday discussed the possibility of increasing the dollar figure attached to the ballot measure meant to fund the acquisition of Treasure in a conservation deal and putting the additional monies toward an unrelated open space agreement.
It was a stunning moment at a Park City Council meeting as Mayor Andy Beerman told the other elected officials several citizens had approached him about taxpayer assistance for a $6 million agreement involving the 19-acre Snow Ranch Pastures. The land is off Thaynes Canyon Drive and Three Kings Drive close to the Park City Golf Club.
Utah Open Lands in late June announced it had reached the $6 million agreement, with the funding needing to be raised by Dec. 15. The not-for-profit organization said at the time it planned a campaign to attempt to cover the price. Utah Open Lands would obtain an instrument known as a conservation easement if the funding is raised. A conservation easement leaves the land in private ownership with the development rights stripped from the acreage. Two branches of the Armstrong family own the land.
The mayor indicated there has been talk of City Hall contributing up to $3 million as a match. The full $3 million would represent 50 percent of the overall price. The City Councilors were not prepared to discuss details and indicated they were willing to consider a contribution. City Hall’s budget staff will calculate numbers and return to the elected officials for what would be a more detailed discussion.
The comments on Thursday were unexpected and could have broad implications as the community readies to debate what is already positioned to be City Hall’s largest-ever conservation ballot measure. Park City has reached a $64 million deal to acquire the Treasure land overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift from a partnership of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC. The Treasure deal would largely be funded through a ballot measure that is expected to be set at $50.7 million. At the $50.7 million figure, the ballot measure would be more than double the figure of Park City’s most expensive land bond — the $25 million voters approved to fund most of the acquisition price of Bonanza Flat. Another $3 million for Snow Ranch Pastures would increase the Treasure ballot measure by a little less than 6 percent.
City Hall has projected a $50.7 million ballot measure would cost the owner of a primary residence valued at $768,000 another $202 per year over the course of the 15-year bond repayment while the owner of a vacation home or commercial property with the same value would pay another $367 annually. Increasing the figure to $53.7 million to account for a Snow Ranch Pastures contribution would push up the annual numbers proportionately.
The supporters of a Snow Ranch Pastures deal see the acreage as important to wildlife, Park City’s rural feel and scenic views. The land would remain available for agricultural uses. It has been rare in recent years for a land deal as large as the 19 acres of Snow Ranch Pastures to be negotiated inside the Park City limits as prices soared and the number of parcels of that size dwindled.
But linking the conservation deal for Snow Ranch Pastures to the Treasure ballot measure may pose political risks for the elected officials as the community prepares for the possibility of an intense campaign about the Treasure deal. City Hall wants to acquire the Treasure land, located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift, after more than a decade of dispute about a development proposal encompassing approximately 1 million square feet.
There is broad support for the ballot measure within the opposition to the development proposal. It is difficult, however, to gauge the backing among the wider voting population. Linking Snow Ranch Pastures to the ballot measure could appeal to people who see that land as critical in addition to Treasure, but doing so could also further raise concerns of those already worried about the Treasure dollar figure.
The City Council during the budget talks in the spring and early summer held an extensive debate about the Treasure ballot measure, considering differing numbers before narrowing the range to between $50 million and $55 million and then settling on $50.7 million. A figure will be finalized later in the summer as the measure is officially placed on the November ballot.
The debate about the dollar figure was closely watched as the elected officials considered a series of budget maneuvers to reduce the figure needed to be raised through a ballot measure. The supporters of the Treasure deal wanted the number set at the lower end of the range. They saw a lower figure as one that could appeal to a wider bloc of voters.
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.