PCMR v. Talisker: three mayors, one letter to Vail, zero signatures
A Salt Lake City man in June sought the signatures of the mayors of Park City, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County on a letter to Vail Resorts that was sensitive to the Park City Mountain Resort side in a high-profile lawsuit involving PCMR, the firm that owns most of the terrain underlying the resort and Vail Resorts.
The letter, apparently drafted on or shortly before June 20, is addressed as an "Open Letter to Vail Resorts." It runs just more than one page in length.
Matt Lyon drafted the letter and submitted it to Park City Mayor Jack Thomas, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams for their consideration. Lyon is the executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. He said in an interview he wrote the letter as a citizen rather than as a state Democratic figure. None of the mayors signed the letter.
The mayor of Park City received the letter via email on June 21. City Hall released a copy on Thursday in response to a Park Record request under state open-records laws.
The letter praises the family that owns PCMR parent Powdr Corp. and offers support for a compromise that would keep the Cumming family involved in the resort on a long-term basis as well as ensure Vail Resorts’ "business interests and rights."
Lyon grew up in the Snyderville Basin and skis at PCMR.
Thomas said in an interview the letter did not reflect "the objectivity we need to carry through this process." Thomas and other City Hall officials have attempted to remain neutral. City Hall had little involvement in the case until recent weeks, when officials urged the sides to reach an agreement as worries mounted about the next ski season. Thomas said his concern is the welfare of the community.
"It was obviously somebody who was very passionate and sympathetic to the Cumming family," Thomas said.
The communications director for McAdams, Alyson Heyrend, said the Salt Lake County mayor indicated it "was inappropriate given the status of litigation." She said Salt Lake County’s involvement in the Mountain Accord, a group weighing a broad range of issues confronting the central Wasatch Mountain region, also influenced McAdams’ decision not to sign the letter.
Art Raymond, a spokesperson for Becker, said the Salt Lake City mayor determined it was not appropriate to sign the letter based on worries about "inadvertently or otherwise" impacting efforts to resolve the case.
Vail Resorts is overseeing the case on behalf of Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, the firm that owns most of the PCMR acreage. The Colorado company in 2013 entered into a long-term lease to operate the Talisker corporate family-owned Canyons Resort. The deal could be extended to include the disputed terrain at PCMR depending on the outcome of the case. The judge presiding over the case in June ordered the sides into mediation in an attempt to reach a resolution. The case centers on PCMR’s lease of the Talisker Land Holdings, LLC terrain and also involves a countersuit. The judge has largely sided with Talisker Land Holdings, LLC and Vail Resorts.
Some highlights of the letter submitted for the mayors’ consideration include:
Lyon in an interview said the message was initially intended to be submitted as an op-ed piece or a standalone letter. The version submitted to the mayors was a first draft, he said. A final letter was never completed once the mayor of Park City recently sent letters to Powdr Corp. and Vail Resorts urging a resolution, Lyon said.
City Hall on Thursday also released an email from Lyon to Thomas explaining the letter. The explanation email indicates Lyon wanted to "generate a few positive media stories about the importance of PCMR and the Cumming family to Park City" without taking a stand on the lawsuit itself.
"We also wanted to build and expand on the community support for the family and the resort as they are going through what is no doubt a difficult time. We will get a nod from John and Ian before we submit this letter, but we wanted to get your thoughts and see if you would be willing to cosign it with Mayor Becker and likely Mayor McAdams," the email says.