Treasure development: ‘Just say No’
The Treasure partnership appeared before the Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday evening, listening to another round of criticism that included an especially pointed statement by a panel member, as the contentious discussions about the project continued.
The meeting, held at the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library to accommodate the crowd, was the second in what is expected to be a series of monthly discussions about Treasure, which returned to the Planning Commission earlier in the summer after a lengthy hiatus.
The Planning Commission and the Treasure side focused on the square footage of the project, a critical issue that separates Park City officials and the developers. The Sweeney family in the 1980s won an overall approval for development at the Treasure site and nearby parcels of land, but Treasure critics have long disputed the just more than 1 million square feet that is sought. The project is now under the ownership of a partnership involving the Sweeney family and firm called Park City II, LLC. The Treasure land is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift.
The meeting was held days after City Hall issued a report questioning the proposed number of 1,016,887 square feet, up from 849,007 in a previous iteration. Much of the discussion about square footage continues to focus on what is known as accessory or back-of-house space, which are the areas needed for the operations of a high-end hotel. The City Hall report, though, did not provide a square-footage figure the municipal government would support.
Shawn Ferrin, an attorney who represents the Treasure side, argued the numbers are similar to other significant projects in Park City, mentioning hallways, lobbies, underground parking and mechanical rooms as he addressed the back-of-house space. He said the edition of City Hall’s detailed development rules that governs Treasure contemplated the back-of-house space. It is the same concept that led to the development of the St. Regis Deer Valley and the Montage Deer Valley, he told the Planning Commission.
Some people in the crowd laughed or grumbled as Ferrin addressed the square footage, prompting Adam Strachan, the chair of the Planning Commission, to request they stop.
“The buildings are scaled back, further away,” Ferrin said as he described one of the redesigns of Treasure based on earlier input from the Planning Commission.
Ferrin also noted there are development rights attached to the Treasure land as a result of the 1980s approval. Under that agreement, the Sweeney family located the development sites toward the base of the hillside and set aside the hillside itself as open space. The Treasure side argues the community long ago received the benefit of the open space but has subsequently not approved a development on the other land.
“The Sweeneys deserve the benefit of the bargain,” Ferrin said.
He noted a small portion of the acreage, less than 3 percent, is eyed for development.
Steve Joyce, a Planning Commissioner, offered lengthy comments about Treasure on Wednesday evening, covering a series of issues related to square footage. He spoke about the back-of-house space the developers propose, saying it will require a larger excavation and lead to the need for more employees at Treasure. He wondered about the commercial space in Treasure competing with nearby Main Street businesses. Joyce questioned the Treasure square-footage calculations, saying there are “some math issues.”
Joyce, meanwhile, said he wanted additional information about the Planning Commission discussions in the 1980s that led to the overall approval.
“How is it we determine what is acceptable,” Joyce said.
Other members of the Planning Commission did not speak at the same length as Joyce, but some appeared to agree with his comments.
The Planning Commission received upward of one hour of testimony from approximately 10 people on Wednesday, a little bit lengthier than a Treasure hearing at a June meeting.
“Just say ‘No,’” said Steven Swanson, an architect, referring to a campaign against illegal drugs during the Reagan administration, which was in office when Treasure received the overall approval.
Niels Vernegaard, a Lowell Avenue resident, said Treasure would have a direct impact on people who live in Park City while other large projects like the Montage Deer Valley and St. Regis Deer Valley were developed in locations well outside of neighborhoods. He said Treasure would resemble a “Las Vegas-style convention center.”
“It’s all about what the resort needs,” he said.
Another speaker, the leader of a Treasure opposition group called the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, compared present-day Park City to the city of the 1980s. Brian Van Hecke said it was a “very different town back then.”
“This project has morphed into a sprawling complex,” Van Hecke said.
He listed the excavation, traffic, pollution and the impact on wildlife as consequences of Treasure. Van Hecke said Treasure should be considered in the context of another large development that is anticipated at the base area of Park City Mountain Resort.
An attorney retained by the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, Charles Stormont, also addressed the Planning Commission, challenging the decades-long timeline of the project. He said there were gaps in the Treasure process lasting up to six years and said the rights secured in the 1980s do not allow the developers to seek additional square footage later.
Dana Williams, a former mayor of Park City who was in office during much of the Treasure discussions over the past decade-plus, said smaller lodging properties with less back-of-house square footage than the Treasure designs contemplate would have been standard in the mid-1980s.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to return to the Treasure discussions at a meeting on Aug. 10. The Planning Commissioners intend to visit the Treasure site as part of the Aug. 10 meeting. The details of the site visit were not immediately available. It appears the meeting in August will again focus on square footage.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.