Park City takes step to preserve Treasure hillside as community wishes
Summit Land Conservancy selected to enforce the open space protection
Park City owns the prized Treasure acreage overlooking Old Town as open space, but work still needs to be completed for the land to be conserved as the community wished when it authorized most of the funding needed for the acquisition.
City Hall purchased the hillside in the spring of 2019 in a $64 million conservation deal, by a wide margin the most expensive in the history of the municipal government’s open space program. Although the acreage is under City Hall ownership, leaders are pursuing a separate effort to ensure the ground is set aside from development permanently.
The Park City Council recently authorized the selection of Summit Land Conservancy to eventually hold what is known as a conservation easement on the Treasure land. A City Hall report drafted in anticipation of the recent meeting indicated Summit Land Conservancy was the lone qualified organization that responded to a municipal request for qualifications.
Summit Land Conservancy holds 20 other conservation easements involving City Hall in some fashion.
A conservation easement is an important document that outlines the restrictions on ground that is protected from development. They are held and enforced by a third party like Summit Land Conservancy rather than the landowner.
The conservation easement that will regulate the Treasure land has not been crafted. The recent decision by the City Council instead affirms that Summit Land Conservancy will ultimately hold the easement. A contract between City Hall and Summit Land Conservancy, including the price tag attached to the work by the organization, will be negotiated later.
“The Treasure Hill Open Space is not your typical conservation property. There are numerous conditions and existing encumbrances which need to be collectively vetted,” the City Hall report says.
Some of the topics officials indicate need vetting include the rights associated with Park City Mountain Resort’s use of portions of the property for skiing terrain, rights of way that exist on the land and encroachments.
Summit Land Conservancy in its submittal to City Hall writes of working “with the City to craft an easement document with protected conservation values, permitted recreational uses, plans for the development of trails and recreational amenities, and the management of natural wildlife habitat and wildfire risks.”
The elected officials did not receive testimony from the public prior to the vote. The mayor and City Council only briefly addressed the selection of Summit Land Conservancy. City Councilor Steve Joyce expressed that it would have been devastating for Park City had the Treasure land been developed.
The City Hall acquisition ended a dispute about a development proposal on a small portion of the land. There were development rights attached to the acreage dating from the 1980s, when the Sweeney family won an overall City Hall approval involving the Treasure land itself and nearby pieces of land.
The Sweeney family and later the Treasure partnership of the Sweeneys and an investor spent years pursuing a development on the land. There was long-running resistance to the proposal — involving upward of 1 million square feet of development — as people on nearby streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue worried about traffic increases and the size of the buildings.
City Hall and the partnership eventually reached the $64 million conservation deal and voters in 2018 overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure raising most of the funds needed.
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