Treasure developers return to Park City after lengthy hiatus
The Treasure partnership has formally asked City Hall to restart its discussions about the controversial project after a hiatus that has stretched for upward of six years, a move that will rattle both supporters and opponents at a moment when there is not another overriding development dispute in Park City to diffuse the attention.
Pat Sweeney, who represents his family’s side of the partnership, sent a letter to City Hall on Friday requesting that Treasure be brought back to the Park City Planning Commission.
The letter, addressed to Planning Director Bruce Erickson, indicates the partnership will proceed with the development application that was under consideration last in 2010. The application itself dates to early 2004. The letter outlines a schedule of meetings starting as early as April 27 and ending with a Planning Commission vote on Sept. 28. The panel is not bound by the schedule.
"It feels right. We’ve looked at alternatives, we talked at length with the city," Sweeney said in an interview, adding, "It’s time to get on with it. It just is."
The Treasure proposal involves approximately 1 million square feet of development on a highly visible hillside overlooking Old Town close to the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure acreage and nearby parcels of land. The partnership must obtain another, more detailed permit from City Hall, though, to proceed with the project. The Sweeney family set aside other land on the hillside as open space as part of the 1980s approval.
Sweeney said he and his two brothers Mike Sweeney and Ed Sweeney — are in their 60s, in good health and want to press ahead with the project. The Sweeney family was the traditional owner of the Treasure acreage and won the 1980s approval. It now holds a 50 percent stake in the project with an investor.
The proposal calls for approximately 200 hotel rooms, approximately 100 condominiums and conference space. The development would involve one building that would be designed to appear as 13 separate ones.
"We don’t have any better ideas . . . We can’t undo the decision that was made in 1986," Sweeney said.
The opposition has long claimed that traffic from Treasure will overwhelm nearby streets like Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue. Opponents also argue that the proposed design, reaching toward 100 feet in height, will loom above Old Town.
There have been sporadic comments, though, from people saying the project could further boost Park City’s resort-driven economy.
It is the most polarizing development dispute inside Park City since the 1990s-era battles about the project that was eventually built as Empire Pass.
"This is a big legacy application here," Erickson said, referring to the 1980s overall approval.
Erickson said he anticipates the Planning Commission discussions will center on the size of the development proposal, traffic issues, the design, utilities and the impacts of construction. The issues are similar to those that the panel dwelled on during the earlier discussions.
"We owe them a fair review," Erickson said.
There has been significant turnover on the Planning Commission since the panel last addressed Treasure in 2010. Adam Strachan, the current chair, is the only member of the seven-person Planning Commission who was in office at the time. Strachan on Monday declined to discuss the upcoming Planning Commission process but acknowledged a community concern regarding Treasure.
It appeared the Planning Commission seated at the time Treasure was last in front of the panel was readying to cast a vote against the project. The Planning Commission concerns centered on issues like traffic and the project designs.
The Planning Commission, though, never voted. The mayor and City Council in office at that time instead entered into an unusual arrangement allowing them to attempt to negotiate a conservation agreement with the Treasure side.
The efforts were unsuccessful and, by opting to negotiate, the elected officials removed themselves from any role in an expected appeal of the Planning Commission’s Treasure vote. If the project is approved by the Planning Commission, the opponents are expected to appeal. The Treasure partnership would likely appeal if the vote goes against the project.
The decision by the earlier elected officials to negotiate and remove themselves from the appeal process is binding upon the current roster of leaders. Any appeal would be put to a three-person panel selected by the City Council instead of the elected officials themselves.
Sweeney conceded the Planning Commission decision could be a ‘Nay’ vote on the project.
"I would say it’s unlikely we will get a positive vote," he said.
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Park City officials are taking steps toward annexing more than 2,000 acres of land, nearly all of it owned by City Hall itself. It would be a move that would bring the ground under the jurisdiction of the municipality’s laws rather than those of the outside governments. The land is located in unincorporated areas of either Summit County or Wasatch County.