An email years ago points to Park City panelist’s Treasure concerns
March 18, 2016
Early in 2009, as it appeared the dispute about the proposed Treasure development could reach a crescendo, Laura Suesser outlined her concerns about the project.
Suesser drafted an email on Jan. 7 of that year to a member of the Park City Planning Commission at the time, Julia Pettit. The Planning Commission, it seemed then, was moving toward a vote on the project. The Suesser message, noting a series of issues, was one of many the panel received.
"The Planning Commission has to do its job and protect the public’s interest with regard to this substantial development proposed for this community," Suesser wrote in the email. "The Planning Commission should not feel pressure to work through this application quickly especially given the magnitude of this project. Just b/c there have been 23 meetings doesn’t mean the Planning Commission isn’t working efficiently."
Suesser covered other topics in the message, including the Treasure timeline and points that, according to her, were "missing items" in the review of the project.
In February, seven-plus years later, Suesser was appointed to the Planning Commission. It is not clear when the Treasure proposal will return to the panel, but there have been indications that the Treasure partnership could restart its discussions with the Planning Commission in coming months.
The Park City Council selected Suesser for a partial term on the Planning Commission to succeed Nann Worel after she won a City Council seat in November. The Suesser term on the Planning Commission ends in July. The chance that Treasure returns to the Planning Commission by then is diminishing, but if she applies for and is appointed to a full four-year term, it seems almost certain the panel will address Treasure during that term.
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Suesser, an attorney, has a residence on Lowell Avenue, according to Summit County property records. Lowell Avenue is one of the streets where the concerns about Treasure have been greatest as people who live there worry about the amount of traffic the project could generate in the neighborhood and the possibility of the Treasure buildings looming over Old Town.
The 2009 email from Suesser broaches topics that have long been pressed by the Treasure opposition. Suesser at one point in the message questions the timeline of Treasure. The project received an overall approval in the 1980s and several pieces of ground outlined in the original approval have been developed. Treasure itself is the largest part of the overall project, though. City Hall has indicated the 1980s approval remains intact. Suesser in the message wanted evidence posted to the Internet or otherwise made public illustrating the validity of Treasure.
"Based on the Background provided in the Staff Report, no extensions to the Master Plan Approval were ever issued. I thought extensions were granted over the years. If any such extensions were ever issued, they should also be posted online and the record should be corrected," Suesser wrote.
She also said issues like trails, work force housing, snow removal and storage and the "overall concept" needed to be addressed.
"Neighborhood Compatibility (is more than just how the structures look)," she wrote.
Suesser, meanwhile, addressed procedural City Hall development matters that leave much of the detailed work to the Planning Commission. She used the term "MPD" for a municipal planning tool known as a master planned development.
"In addition, I’d like to remind the Planning Commission of the fact that the MPD was approved SUBJECT TO the details of the project being approved by the Planning Commission. The approval therefore, including the applicant’s density and all the details of the proposed project, are all subject to the Commission’s close consideration and determinations," she wrote.
The Treasure side, now consisting of the Sweeney family and a business partner, more than a decade ago started discussions at City Hall about the project. It is envisioned as upward of 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Treasure partnership made only modest progress in the talks with the Planning Commission as panel members and opponents expressed numerous concerns about traffic, the size of the proposed buildings and other issues.
Over the course of the discussions, the project has been redesigned and City Hall unsuccessfully attempted to reach a conservation deal for the acreage. The talks with the Planning Commission stalled without the panel casting a vote. The Suesser email likely offers a preview of her questioning if the Treasure developers return to the Planning Commission with the same project or one that is similar. A Treasure supporter, though, could cite the message in questioning her impartiality regarding the proposal.
"From the very words of the MPD approved back in 1985, the applicant has known all along that the details of this project were deferred to this stage and it is up to the Planning Commission to work through all the details to determine if the project is appropriate; particularly in light of the significant development in the adjacent community," Suesser wrote.
Suesser did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
A similar message
Suesser is at least the second current member of the seven-person Planning Commission to have submitted a message to City Hall regarding Treasure prior to their appointment.
Steve Joyce in early 2009 also expressed concerns in a message about Treasure. His message was more pointed than the one from Suesser. Joyce covered traffic issues and the designs of Treasure, saying that the project "appears to be the biggest blight yet."
Joyce said in the message he hoped the Planning Commission "will be responsible in protecting the town of Park City." He also said the project "should be scaled back so that isn’t such a giant blemish on such a visible piece of town."
Joyce said in an interview in 2014, after his appointment to the Planning Commission, he would fairly consider the Treasure proposal regardless of the opinions he described in the 2009 message. As with Suesser, a supporter of Treasure could challenge his impartiality.