Bonanza Flats: might Park City be the only one signing a check?
August 23, 2016
Park City might be the only public entity signing the check if Bonanza Flats is acquired for conservation purposes someday.
As City Hall readies to ask voters to support a ballot measure in November to raise funds that would be put toward a Bonanza Flats acquisition, if one is negotiated, it is unclear whether other area governments would agree to financially assist in a purchase. Park City leaders would almost certainly welcome any help, but other likely public-sector partners by the middle of the week had not made commitments.
Bonanza Flats, the high-altitude acreage in Wasatch County, is located just south of Park City, downhill from Guardsman Pass. The land of interest to City Hall stretches through approximately 1,400 acres. It is owned by a firm called Redus, LLC, an entity under the corporate umbrella of Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions. The two were the lenders on the property and took possession in a large foreclosure case against the Talisker corporate family.
Park City is interested in attempting to acquire Bonanza Flats from Redus, LLC. The municipal government and conservation groups have long desired to protect Bonanza Flats from development.
Park City leaders recently put a $25 million bond on the ballot in November. The funds would be used in a Bonanza Flats acquisition should the land become available to the municipal government. Any offer would be more appealing if other governments added to the sum, a scenario that Park City officials could pursue after Election Day if the ballot measure passes. Park City leaders caution that a deal has not been reached to acquire Bonanza Flats.
Summit County and Wasatch County would almost certainly be among those approached. Summit County has a program to acquire land for conservation purposes while Bonanza Flats is located in Wasatch County, meaning leaders there would have a stake in any major move regarding the land.
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Wasatch County has never acquired land through an outright conservation purchase, Mike Davis, the Wasatch County manager, said. Instead, the county has negotiated with landowners to set aside acreage through the approval processes of developments. Wasatch County does not currently have a source of funds to participate in an acquisition, he said.
"It would be a big step. We haven't really taken it yet," Davis said about acquiring land in conservation deals, adding, "Are they interested enough to help buy it? We haven't asked that question yet."
He noted more than 85 percent of the land in Wasatch County is already publicly owned through federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management as well as state agencies.
Davis said he met with Park City officials, including City Manager Diane Foster, shortly before City Hall publicized the idea of the Bonanza Flats ballot measure. He anticipates additional meetings between Park City and Wasatch County officials regarding the acreage. The upcoming talks could involve elected officials of the two jurisdictions, he said.
Summit County, meanwhile, was unsure what role it could play eventually. Roger Armstrong, the chair of the Summit County Council, said he supports the efforts to acquire Bonanza Flats in a conservation deal, calling the acreage "pristine, beautiful."
"There's a lot of reasons to try to do that," he said.
Armstrong said there had not been discussions between Summit County and Park City about County Courthouse participation in a Bonanza Flats deal. He said acquiring land for conservation purposes is "growth mitigation for Summit County" and boosts recreation offerings. He said officials seek partnerships on land deals. Armstrong also noted voters in the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District have approved a ballot measure that provides funding for conservation acquisitions and other purposes.
"I couldn't even begin to guess," Armstrong said about the prospects of Summit County someday participating in a Bonanza Flats acquisition.
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