A Park City political spectacle: election, Treasure on back-to-back days? | ParkRecord.com

A Park City political spectacle: election, Treasure on back-to-back days?

Momentous development decision could be made just hours after campaign ends

by Jay Hamburger

A computer-generated image shows Treasure as it would look from Deer Valley Drive as it passes City Park. The Treasure development partnership has said it wants a Park City Planning Commission vote in October but this week indicated a decision could be sought in November instead.

The Treasure partnership may opt to force a November vote on the controversial project instead of insisting on one in October, a potential one-month delay in scheduling that could result in the momentous decision occurring the evening after Election Day.

It would add even more drama to a week that is already expected to be tense in Park City as voters elect a mayor and two members of the Park City Council. Election Day is Nov. 7, a Tuesday. The Planning Commission meeting when a Treasure decision could be made is scheduled the next evening.

The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, has indicated it intends to invoke a part of state law that allows a developer to force a vote by a planning commission. It is a rarely used section of law that longtime observers of Park City planning and zoning issues say has not been invoked inside the city in decades, at least. The state law requires a vote within 45 days of the request.

The Treasure side has said it wants a vote by the Planning Commission's second meeting in October, scheduled on Oct. 25. That timeline would call for Treasure to make the request the week of Sept. 4. Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure discussions, though, said on Monday the partnership now envisions a vote on Oct. 25 or Nov. 8.

"We don't feel like the vote will be influenced by the election. We're good with it happening before, after," Sweeney said.

He said a Nov. 8 vote is preferred, but the partnership would be ready for a vote on Oct. 25 if need be. The Treasure side at the Oct. 25 meeting wants to review the "most popular questions" about the project and summarize its position, Sweeney said.

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"We were OK with either date. We're going to remain OK with either date," Sweeney said.

The mayoral candidates addressed Treasure during the primary season and the City Council field will likely discuss the matter in coming weeks as well. The elected officials do not hold a Treasure vote as a result of an earlier set of leaders removing the City Council from its usual role as the appeal body on a Planning Commission decision as a part of an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a conservation deal for the land.

The Treasure dispute is one of the critical issues before City Hall, and it seems likely the candidates will eventually debate the project in some fashion regardless of the removal of the elected officials from the process. It is the most controversial development proposal since the 1990s-era discussions that led to the project built as Empire Pass.

A forced vote the day after the election would make the week a spectacle of municipal politics with few parallels. A new mayor and at least one new City Councilor will be voted into office on the Tuesday of that week. A Planning Commission vote the day after would be one of the most notable decisions by the panel in years. A large crowd would be expected at the Planning Commission meeting less than 24 hours after voters spend an evening awaiting the election returns. The winners will be sworn into office in early January.

It will be an especially notable two days for Steve Joyce, a member of the Planning Commission who is campaigning for a City Council seat. Joyce, a Treasure critic, would cast his vote on the project the day after he learns whether he has captured a City Council seat.

The Treasure proposal involves approximately 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure land and nearby parcels. Another approval is needed before Treasure itself could be developed.

The Planning Commission discussions about Treasure have stretched for more than a decade with several starts and stops. Planning Commissioners and critics on nearby streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue have expressed concerns about issues like the traffic Treasure is expected to generate and the size of the buildings. The Treasure side contends the project fits the location as designed and the development will boost business.