Decision about PCMR lift upgrades delayed
Park City Planning Commission to hold a follow-up discussion on June 15
No decisions were made about the future of Park City Mountain Resort lift upgrades during a contentious appeal to the Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday night, but commissioners hope clarified information will allow them to take action next week.
The discussion was scheduled to last 90 minutes, yet points raised by those challenging the upgrades, questions from the panel and the failure of PCMR officials to provide adequate clarification resulted in a four-hour meeting that will be continued next Wednesday.
While the audience was split in its support of upgrading the Eagle and Silverlode Express lifts, the commissioners, too, were undecided on whether to uphold or deny the appeal brought forward by four Park City residents. Around 30 people attended the meeting in person with another 79 participating via Zoom.
The PCMR project would replace the current Eagle and Eaglet lifts with a high-speed, six-person detachable lift. The resort also wants to upgrade Silverlode Express from a six-person to an eight-person, high-speed lift, which would make it parent company Vail Resorts’ first chair of its kind in North America.
The people who filed the appeal, Clive Bush, Angela Moschetta, Deborah Rentfrow and Mark Stemler, argued the proposal should’ve been exempt from receiving a staff-level administrative conditional-use permit because the upgrades would exceed PCMR’s comfortable carrying capacity (CCC) and should be voted on by the Planning Commission instead. They also argued the application should not have been approved due to inadequate parking mitigation or conditions of approval for peak ski days.
A staff report from the Park City Planning Department recommended denying the appeal because a section of a 1998 development agreement with PCMR, which outlines growth at the resort base, states, “development of the skiing and related facilities as identified in the mountain upgrade plan is a conditional use within the city limits and is a subject to administrative review” as long as the projects are identified in and compliant with the mountain upgrade plan. Planning Department staff said the agreement requires lift upgrades to be reviewed administratively if six criteria are met, which they say are.
However, the appeal claims criteria one and six – which call for consistency with the mountain upgrade plan and a sufficient parking plan – are not met. The group also made 11 arguments in the filing to support their appeal.
On Wednesday, much of the discussion was centered on whether upgrading the lifts would increase visitorship and surpass the resort’s comfortable carrying capacity. Mike Goar, who until recently was the chief operating officer at PCMR and remains at Vail Resorts, said the improvements will help reduce crowding by moving people up the mountain faster and that lift upgrades don’t lead to more skiers and snowboarders.
The maximum carrying capacity is 13,700 and PCMR’s current comfortable carrying capacity is 12,570. The proposed upgrades would increase the comfortable carrying capacity to 12,860 and would not cause a significant increase in parking demand, according to a staff report.
But Moschetta argued that “fuzzy math” caused the numbers to be manipulated. She presented a series of comfortable carrying capacity numbers that differed from the findings of outside consultants hired by the resort and argued the upgrades will increase the figure to 13,980.
“The miscalculated and already exceeded CCCs confirm absolutely that this application violated the [mountain upgrade plan], and therefore the [development agreement], and therefore violated the [Land Management Code], and therefore never met conditions for administrative review,” she said. “On this basis alone, our appeal must be upheld and the decision of the planning director overturned.”
Her argument was compelling to most of the commissioners, who asked PCMR and its consultants to explain the discrepancies. Planning Commission Chair John Phillips said he trusted the specialists and supported denying the appeal while Planning Commissioners Sarah Hall and Bill Johnson indicated they would side with Phillips if the comfortable carrying capacity discrepancy was clearly explained.
“The appellants have the burden of proof and they’ve not presented experts, facts. We have. Two experts on CCC, and mountain planning. We’ve worked through this in great detail. Lastly, the planning director’s decision should be upheld on appeal if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record, which is what we presented originally,” Goar said.
After repeated back and forth, and several unsuccessful attempts from the resort’s experts to clarify the numbers, the majority of commissioners were not satisfied.
Commissioners John Kenworthy and Laura Suesser called for transparency and collaboration, particularly as Deidre Walsh – who was present during the meeting – takes over as the new vice president and chief operating officer of the resort. Kenworthy and Suesser agreed more information about the proposal was needed and requested more details in the 19 conditions of approval, which include a requirement that PCMR use net proceeds from paid parking to reinvest in transit, transportation and parking measures to mitigate traffic problems around the resort as well as adequate residential neighborhood traffic mitigation.
Goar, in an effort to move the talks forward, asked if the Planning Commission would consider splitting the decision about the proposed upgrades into two paths. He requested they approve the Silverlode Express while discussions around the Eagle lift continued and petitioned a vote. He said further delays would likely prevent the project from being constructed prior to the upcoming ski season. The Planning Commission didn’t support splitting the project.
Several residents spoke during a hearing.
Bill Malone, a former president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said he views the lift upgrades as part of the process to improve PCMR facilities. The project will advance the skier and customer experience, which is a crucial part of any business model, he said.
Former Planning Commissioner Adam Strachan also supported the lift upgrades. He said it’s rare that an appeal is filed and questioned why there weren’t the same complaints during the 2015 Crescent lift upgrade. The proposal shouldn’t be unexpected, Strachan said, and he praised PCMR for “over-mitigating” issues like parking in its plan.
Snyderville Basin resident Eric Moxham supported the appeal. He said city officials need to “hold the line” and shouldn’t be bullied by Vail. Moxham criticized the language in the mountain upgrade plan as outdated and called for the agreement to be renegotiated.
Ed Parigian, an Old Town resident, said the lift upgrades are a precursor to building out the PCMR base area and didn’t support the project. He suggested if the resort puts certain mitigation plans in place now, they won’t be effective when the development is completed. Parigian said city officials need to disrupt the municipal relationship with PCMR because it’s “pretty one-sided.”
After hours of debate, Phillips apologized to the audience for how long the meeting went and asked if there was a motion for continuance. Commissioners agreed to hold a follow-up discussion at 5:30 p.m. on June 15.
Woodbury Jewelers, indicated sales were outpacing numbers from some previous festivals. Sales during the opening weekend in 2023 compared to 2019 were up 1,000%.
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