Treasure developers continue to encounter broad opposition
The Treasure development partnership on Wednesday received another round of criticism, continuing what has been broad opposition to the disputed hillside project and leaving the partnership with, it seems, little support on the Park City Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission is likely months away from casting a vote on Treasure, but the meeting on Wednesday again highlighted deep-rooted concerns by panelists as well as people who live on nearby streets. The Planning Commission since the summer has held monthly discussions and hearings about Treasure, signaling repeatedly they have concerns about issues like the project design and the square-footage numbers. The panel continues to address those issues and will likely have additional trouble once they move onto other topics like the traffic Treasure is anticipated to draw.
The meeting on Wednesday, held at the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library, drew a smaller crowd than other Planning Commission meetings that dealt with Treasure. The crowd appeared to be largely in opposition to the project, as has been the case at previous meetings.
The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, wants the Planning Commission to approve approximately 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family, which was the historic owner of the land, secured an overall approval for development at the Treasure site and nearby parcels in the 1980s. The partnership is now seeking another approval needed before work can start. The talks about the current project have stretched for more than a decade with various stops and starts.
The Planning Commission has spent extensive time recently weighing the proposal for approximately 1 million square feet against the 1980s approval. Critics say the 1980s approval did not contemplate a project as large as the one proposed. Planning Commissioners have also raised concerns when comparing the current iteration against the approval in the 1980s.
Steve Joyce, a member of the Planning Commission, has been especially aggressive in his questioning, offering extensive comments about the project. Joyce on Wednesday continued his probing of Treasure. He called the proposal a “dramatic departure” from the 1980s overall approval. Joyce told the Treasure team lots of square footage, perhaps 150,000 square feet, has been added to the proposal over the years. One Treasure design, from 2005, can no longer be considered in existence since it has changed so much over the years, Joyce said.
Joyce, meanwhile, challenged the ideas for the Treasure excavation, saying the project will be taller as a result of the depth of the digging. He also said he wants visuals showing how Treasure will fit alongside Old Town, where houses and buildings are generally smaller than the Treasure proposal.
Douglas Thimm, another Planning Commissioner, also was critical of the excavation, agreeing with Joyce that the depth will lead to a taller project. Planning Commissioner John Phillips mentioned Treasure would be situated close to lower-profile Old Town houses and buildings. Planning Commissioner Melissa Band said she wants the developers to ensure the designs put smaller buildings close to the Lowell Avenue-Empire Avenue switchback, a spot in Treasure that is close to surrounding houses. Planning Commissioner Preston Campbell said he wants to learn about the electricity and waterworks needs of Treasure. Laura Suesser, a Planning Commissioner, said the project designs did not take into consideration the height of nearby buildings.
The Treasure team cited the 1980s talks about the project, noting that Park City leaders of that era wanted the development clustered toward the bottom of the hillside. That, they said, was preferred to a design that would have spread houses onto the hillside. The Treasure side also told the Planning Commission the requested square footage is needed to develop a high-end lodging property like the one envisioned at the site.
The Planning Commission received another round of testimony from the public that was overwhelmingly critical. One of the speakers, an attorney retained by the opposition group Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, addressed square footage. It is a critical topic since the square footage will influence other Treasure subjects like the design. Charles Stormont, who has provided extensive comments on behalf of the opposition group at earlier meetings, said his calculations peg the number at approximately 600,000 square feet.
There have been wide-ranging numbers involved in the Treasure conversations over the years, and calculating a square footage will be one of the Planning Commission’s most important determinations.
Other speakers addressed concerns about excavation plans, traffic and the scale of Treasure in the context of Old Town during a hearing that lasted nearly 50 minutes. Kyra Parkhurst, a Treasure critic, told the Planning Commission the partnership is attempting to secure a larger development than was outlined in the 1980s approval, said neighborhoods outside of Old Town will be impacted and said there are concerns about the traffic.
“People park on the street. People play on the street,” she said.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to address Treasure again at a meeting on Nov. 9.
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Park City Council members have directed staffers to continue working on a plan to develop affordable housing on a site 1 ½ miles south of City Hall on Marsac Avenue. Staffers are recommending the city release a request for proposals (RFP) to find interested entities to participate in a public-private partnership to build the project.