Park City readies for the inevitable: a forced Treasure vote
Issues could remain unresolved if developers demand decision
THE PARK RECORD
The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday addressed what appears to be the inevitable scenario of the Treasure partnership in coming weeks formally requesting a vote on the controversial development proposal, a move that would force the panel into an action regardless of whether members are ready for one.
State law allows a developer to trigger a 45-day period in which a planning commission must render a decision on an application. It is a rarely used section of the law that longtime observers of Park City planning and zoning issues say has not been invoked in a matter before City Hall in decades, at least.
The Planning Commission indicated it is aware of the prospects of the Treasure side making a request shortly and wants to prepare for the possibility. The panel at a meeting about Treasure on Wednesday talked about options, but it did not make decisions regarding how it would operate during a 45-day window that would culminate with a momentous vote.
There was concern that the Planning Commission would not have the time to finish its review of Treasure if the partnership makes the request as early as later in August. The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, has said it wants the Planning Commission to cast a vote no later than the panel’s second meeting in October, scheduled on Oct. 25. The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to address Treasure just twice prior to Oct. 25, at meetings slated for Sept. 13 and Oct. 11.
There is a possibility special meetings will be scheduled for the Treasure discussions. The Planning Commission spent months discussing crucial issues like Treasure-related traffic and the square footage and has moved toward other issues such as the construction details. More talks are needed about traffic as well. The Planning Commission has been skeptical of Treasure’s ideas about the square footage and the blueprints to address traffic. There was additional talk about traffic at the meeting on Wednesday.
Steve Joyce, a Planning Commissioner, said significant work is still needed should a vote be forced. He wanted more Treasure meetings scheduled in the event of a request for a vote. Francisco Astorga, the City Hall planner assigned to Treasure, said staffers will discuss a calendar if a vote is requested. He acknowledged, though, it will be difficult for the Planning Commission to complete its review of the proposal if a decision is forced.
Adam Strachan, the chair of the Planning Commission, noted issues could be left unresolved at the time of a vote if the panel must make a decision in October. Planning Commissioner Douglas Thimm questioned whether the schedule would offer the partnership enough time to provide alternatives meant to address the panel’s concerns.
Jody Burnett, an attorney retained by City Hall to serve as the municipal government’s Treasure counsel, told the Planning Commission it would be a challenging timeline for the Treasure side and municipal staffers. He said the monthly Planning Commission meetings about Treasure already present challenges.
The Planning Commission has spent more than a decade in on-and-off talks about Treasure. The sides have made limited progress over the years as conflicts arose about issues like traffic and the overall size of the proposal. The partnership wants to secure an approval for nearly 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift and off streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure land and nearby parcels, but another permit is needed for Treasure itself.
The Planning Commission on Wednesday, meanwhile, continued its talks about the traffic Treasure is anticipated to generate. There is neighborhood concern about the traffic overwhelming streets even as the developer outlines steps it intends to take to cut the number of vehicles headed to and from the project, such as building a people mover known as a cabriolet.
Joyce said he is worried about the commercial space planned at Treasure drawing drivers and mentioned the possibility of restricting advertising that is meant to attract people who are not staying within the project. He also described the trouble encountered by two trucks driving in opposite directions on the roads, saying “they don’t fit.” Melissa Band, another Planning Commissioner, said she wants a study of the traffic conducted by a third party. A study is needed that illustrates the numbers in the event the lodging that would be at Treasure is 100 percent occupied, she said. Other members of the panel said pedestrian safety needs to be addressed.
The Planning Commission held an approximately 25-minute hearing on Wednesday that drew comments from four people. There were questions about the impact of the Treasure construction and concerns about the narrowness of the nearby roads. Kyra Parkhurst, a Treasure critic, said she has yet to hear plans to ensure pedestrians are safe from the project traffic.
Nicole Deforge, an attorney who represents the opposition group Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, told the Planning Commission the Treasure partnership focused its traffic research on the effects of the project on intersections. The work, though, has not dealt with Treasure’s significance to the carrying capacity of nearby streets.
“Here we are, again, mid-August and we don’t have it,” she said.
In an interview after the meeting, Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure talks, said the discussion on Wednesday was similar to others held by previous Planning Commission rosters. He reiterated the Treasure side’s intention to request a vote.
“We had this entire conversation 10 years ago,” he said, adding, “Same problems, same solutions.”
Two people indicated in interviews they are considering mounting campaigns for the Park City Council, a signal the City Hall election could attract an intriguing slate of candidates in a year when the majority of the five seats are on the ballot.