Protection sought for the farm
City Hall wants the postcard view of the McPolin Farm to stay as it is forever.
The local government and a conservation group are currently negotiating to ensure that the farm, Park City’s signature open-space purchase, remains undeveloped.
City Hall owns the property, located off S.R. 224 between St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Thaynes Canyon, and has pledged to protect it as open space, the intent of the almost $5 million purchase, including water rights, in 1991.
But, worried that elected officials in the future might face dire economic times and decide to sell the property to a developer, the current Park City Council is considering putting what is known as a ‘conservation easement’ on most of the property.
Conservation easements are restrictions that essentially bar development on a property. They are held by an outside entity, usually a land bank or other type of conservation group.
If City Hall grants such an easement, the property remains in the hands of the government but the conservation group enforces the restrictions of the easement.
The current discussions are between City Hall and the Summit Land Conservancy.
The farm sprawls over 80 acres, with the white barn on the property being perhaps Park City’s best-known landmark. Most people driving to and from Park City pass the farm as they travel on S.R. 224.
In the winter, a cross-country skiing track winds through the property and in the summer several small events are usually scheduled.
"That was the one that put us on the map," Myles Rademan, Park City’s Public Affairs director, said about the farm’s importance to City Hall’s conservation program.
The government already has placed tight restrictions on the farm and has also made it difficult for future officials to sell the property.
Rademan said such moves would require a super-majority vote by the City Council at least four out of five votes and then the decision would be put on a ballot, when 60 percent of voters would be required for a measure to pass.
Rademan is cautious about the current talks. He said there might be concerns decades into the future about the farm being restricted by a conservation easement. He likened it to if a silver-mining company in Park City 100 years ago put an easement on its land restricting all activity except mining. That may have eventually barred the company from building a ski resort, Rademan said.
"There’s always a danger in locking up the future," he said.
In a report to the City Council in March, Brooks Robinson, a City Hall planner, discussed the boundaries of a possible easement and suggested that the land nearby the buildings on the property be exempted. That would allow functions and, potentially, improvements to the buildings, Robinson said in the report.
Jennifer Guetschow, from the conservation group, said her organization worries about the scenarios in the future.
"They may want to change the use on the land. The concern would be any subdivisions or development on the open space," she said, adding, "The only thing that it’s taking away is the development of the property."
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Park City leaders on Thursday addressed the concept of building a facility to store soils with contaminants from the community’s silver-mining era, focusing the discussion on the efforts to publicize the prospects of developing what is known as a repository.