Retired City Hall figure unexpectedly re-enters Treasure talks
Developers asked former chief building official to address meeting
December 15, 2016
A retired City Hall figure who held a pivotal role during the 1980s-era discussions about the Treasure acreage testified about the project Wednesday evening, primarily addressing topics pinpointed to his career field, in unexpected input that was one of the highlights of the last Treasure meeting of the year.
Ron Ivie spent 30 years as the chief building official for Park City, stretching from 1980 until 2010. He helped craft critical documents related to Treasure as Park City leaders of the 1980s molded the project. The Sweeney family in 1986 secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure land, which is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift, and nearby parcels. The Treasure partnership, involving the Sweeney family and an investor called Park City II, LLC, is now seeking another permit needed before Treasure can be developed.
Ivie retired with statewide respect for his time at City Hall and his service in the field of building codes. His appearance on Wednesday was not widely publicized prior to the meeting. Ivie said in an interview the Treasure partnership has not hired him as a consultant. He said the developers asked that he appear to discuss matters related to a plan to protect Treasure from fire as well as the plans to remove contaminated soils from the site. Ivie said he did not brief the Treasure partnership about his comments to the Planning Commission beforehand other than indicating he supported the plans to protect against a fire. He helped devise those documents as the chief building official.
Ivie spoke to the Planning Commission about the reasoning behind some of the Treasure designs, particularly how they relate to the excavation requirements. Panel members have seemed to have concerns about the breadth of the proposed excavation. Ivie, though, said the plans were crafted so that fire trucks could respond to a blaze. The plans to combat a fire influenced the height of the Treasure garage and, as a result, the size of the excavation, Ivie said. He argued the Treasure plans meet fire codes.
In broader comments, meanwhile, Ivie suggested City Hall could acquire the portion of Treasure that is planned to be developed as convention space. That could ensure a public use in the project, he said.
Speaking in an interview afterward, Ivie said the plan to protect against fire is "absolutely good, fine." He acknowledged the plan is complicated, though.
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"This building, as far as life safety, is superior to most buildings," he said.
Ivie also explained the suggestion that the municipal government acquire the convention space location. If that were to happen, he said, City Hall could manage the use of the space.
"The city, then, if they own it, have a direct interest in the way it's run," he said, adding such a scenario could benefit the "economic well-being of the city."
In an interview, Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure discussions, said Ivie was able to "shed light on some of the, I think, realities involved." Sweeney said the Treasure side approached Ivie several weeks ago. He agreed "to speak as Ron Ivie, independently," Sweeney said.
"If you hamstring the project or hogtie the project, you're going to get a project that does not work," Sweeney said.
Ivie is one of a string of former Park City officials to testify about Treasure. Others have included figures who held elected or appointed office at the time of the 1980s approval. They have provided insight into the debates that led to the decision in 1986.
The Treasure partnership is seeking an approval for approximately 1 million square feet of development — residences, commercial spaces and space needed to operate a high-end lodging property, sometimes referred to as the back of house. The partnership argues the proposal fits the overall approval from the 1980s. Opponents, though, have challenged the square-footage numbers and claim the project would loom over Old Town. Critics also argue Treasure traffic would overwhelm neighborhood streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue. The Treasure side has spent more than a decade in discussions with the Planning Commission with some interruptions in the talks lasting for years.
The meeting was also notable for the return of a detailed physical model of Treasure and the surrounding neighborhood. It was the first time the partnership put the model on public display since 2010. Planning Commissioners and the audience surrounded the model, studying the position of the Treasure buildings as they relate to the houses in Old Town. Some quietly chatted as they pored over the model. It will remain on display at City Hall for 60 days.
The Planning Commission on Wednesday was not scheduled to make important decisions. It held a hearing and continued to discuss Treasure. The hearing lasted a little more than 30 minutes and the testimony was in opposition to Treasure, as it has been throughout the talks.
Charles Stormont, an attorney who represents an opposition group called the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, argued the project is not the same as what was approved in an overall form in the 1980s. He said, as an example, the excavation plans have been modified. Stormont also said the coalition has calculated the square-footage numbers to be between an estimated 628,000 square feet and 635,000 square feet.
John Stafsholt, an Old Town resident, argued the Treasure designs do not respect the historic neighborhood. He also told the Planning Commission the orientation of Treasure on the hillside does not conform to the grid pattern of Old Town. The project "disrespects the topography of the land," he said.
Planning Commissioners offered a range of comments. Planning Commissioner Melissa Band talked about Treasure being a large project in the "heart of Old Town. She wondered whether Treasure would be deserted in the offseason, similar to Empire Pass. Laura Suesser, another Planning Commissioner, said the model on display at the meeting is misleading since, she claimed, it does not accurately portray the amount of development in the neighborhood.