Park City sees potential to acquire coveted Bonanza Flats
City Hall is considering asking voters in November to approve a $25 million ballot measure that could someday fund the acquisition of a swath of high-altitude acreage in Wasatch County that has long been coveted by developers and conservationists alike, a surprise move that could make Election Day in Park City even more intriguing than it is already expected to be.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council on Thursday are scheduled to discuss the possibilities involving approximately 1,400 acres of land known as Bonanza Flats. City Hall has not negotiated an agreement to acquire the land. Officials, though, could put a bond on the ballot to ensure there is voter authorization for the funding if an agreement is reached later.
The land, generally located just south of the Park City limits and downhill from Guardsman Pass, had historically been owned by United Park City Mines. The Talisker corporate family eventually acquired Bonanza Flats and other United Park City Mines assets. The Bonanza Flats acreage was involved in a large foreclosure case against the Talisker corporate family in 2015.
The land is now owned by a firm called Redus, LLC, which is under the corporate umbrella of Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions, according to a City Hall report drafted in anticipation of the meeting on Thursday. Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions were the lenders that brought the foreclosure case, which ended with the lenders taking possession of the lands.
“As a result of the recent foreclosure and sheriff’s sale, a partnership of lenders now owns Bonanza Flats. Given this change in circumstances, (Park City) feels that it is well worth being prepared to make an offer on Bonanza Flats should it become available,” the City Hall report, written by Deputy City Attorney Tom Daley, says. “We do not have a deal with the current property owner. If and when this property owner or a subsequent owner should approach Park City, we want to be in a position to make an offer.”
A conservation deal for Bonanza Flats would be one of the most notable purchases by City Hall over the decades of its aggressive open space program. It would protect a large-acreage piece of ground in an environmentally sensitive location.
A deal would also be seen at City Hall as blocking development, one of the goals of Park City’s conservation efforts. Bonanza Flats in the 1990s was a critical bargaining chip during the highly contentious discussions that led to an approval of the development that was built as Empire Pass in Deer Valley. At different points during those talks, United Park City Mines was willing to set Bonanza Flats aside from development. The agreement that City Hall eventually reached with United Park City Mines, however, envisioned substantial development on the Bonanza Flats land, capped at 260 units. Bonanza Flats was seen as a location for a ski-and-golf development with residences and commercial spaces. United Park City Mines and then the Talisker corporate family did not secure development rights from Wasatch County for Bonanza Flats, though.
Park City voters have supported ballot measures raising money for conservation purposes since the late 1990s. A vote related to Bonanza Flats, though, would be under different circumstances, however. In the past, the ballot measures raised funds to be used on unspecified land purchases. In the case of Bonanza Flats, a vote would be held on a specific acquisition.
The City Council has until Aug. 18 to place a bond for the November ballot. The elected officials are scheduled to discuss the matter for 30 minutes on Thursday at the Marsac Building starting at 5:15 p.m. A more detailed discussion would be held prior to a City Council vote to put the bond on the ballot.
The City Hall report provides an estimate of the increased property taxes that would be paid if a $25 million ballot measure was passed by voters. The owner of a property classified as a primary residence would pay another $15.15 per $100,000 of assessed value annually while the owner of a vacation home or a commercial property would pay $27.54 per $100,000 of assessed value each year. City Hall says a bond would be paid off over 15 years. The report acknowledges an acquisition price is unknown and there is the possibility other public entities and the private sector could contribute. The bonds would not be sold if City Hall fails to reach an agreement for Bonanza Flats.
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