Treasure opposition dismisses developers’ traffic report
Critics challenge findings, but are backups simply ‘life in Old Town?’
THE PARK RECORD
Critics of Treasure on Wednesday dismissed the results of a traffic study conducted on behalf of the development partnership, telling the Park City Planning Commission vehicles headed to and from the project would overwhelm nearby roads as they used visuals to show trouble spots that exist already.
It was an important Planning Commission meeting as the panel continued to address the difficult topic of Treasure-related traffic, which has long been one of the crucial concerns of the Planning Commission and the opposition to the development. The Treasure side argues roads like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue will be able to adequately carry the development’s traffic in combination with a series of traffic-fighting measures that are proposed as part of the project. The opposition says otherwise, claiming the roads are too narrow and are already stressed by current traffic loads.
The meeting on Wednesday was one of the starkest gatherings focused on Treasure traffic as the various sides had a month to pore over the results of a study conducted on behalf of the developers during the busy Presidents Day weekend. The study counted cars at key intersections expected to be impacted by Treasure traffic and concluded the roads can accommodate the load.
The Planning Commission listened to just more than an hour of testimony on Wednesday as nine speakers described the conditions nowadays and questioned the findings of the developers. The Planning Commission was shown a lengthy video showing images of neighborhood streets and other roads that would carry Treasure traffic.
Many of the photographs were taken after large snowstorms, and they showed traffic on Old Town streets narrowed by snow on the sides. Some showed pedestrians walking in the street alongside traffic while others showed delivery trucks unable to pass each other as they drove in opposite directions. One of the images was labeled with the message “The road is shared by all.” Another had a message of “Is this safe access for our tourists?”
The images essentially served as a visual aid for some of the testimony from the critics. Niels Vernegaard, a Lowell Avenue resident, told the Planning Commission there is concern that an ambulance could be blocked as a result of the traffic and whether City Hall could be held liable if that happens. He predicted people at Treasure would not use a proposed people mover known as a cabriolet that would connect the project and Main Street. They will instead call for a car, he said.
“This is a residential neighborhood. We live here,” Vernegaard said.
Clay Stuard, a Park Meadows resident and a former member of the Planning Commission, said there are “life and death consequences” to decisions about traffic.
“This is what people live with in Old Town,” Stuard said.
Other speakers challenged the results of the traffic study based on the weather conditions on the day of the study, said construction workers headed to and from Treasure will not use the cabriolet and said the tiny Old Town street Crescent Tram was not included in the study but it will carry Treasure traffic nonetheless.
Nikki Deforge, an attorney who represents the opposition group Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, said a review of the traffic study conducted on behalf of the coalition “provides a compelling rebuttal” to the one prepared for the developers. She contended a study needs to address the capacity of the streets rather than exclusively looking at intersection counts. Deforge said the day of the study did not represent peak traffic numbers, calling the findings “not reliable or accurate.”
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 in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure acreage and nearby parcels of land. The partnership must win another approval before the project may commence, though. Various Planning Commission rosters have spent more than a decade reviewing the Treasure proposal with a series of starts and stops in the intervening years.
Members of the current Planning Commission have been skeptical of the Treasure proposal and appear to have deep-rooted concerns about traffic. Planning Commissioners on Wednesday said traffic must be considered at its peak, cars and trucks impact traffic differently and a snow-removal plan should be weighed alongside traffic. There is also concern on the Planning Commission that people staying at Treasure will not choose the cabriolet.
Melissa Band, a Planning Commissioner, said she wants a third party to review the Treasure traffic study and the response to the study drafted for the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition. Planning Commissioner John Phillips covered the cabriolet in his comments, saying there could be issues if people use vehicles to get to the cabriolet.
“Is it going to create all kinds of parking problems,” Phillips said.
In an interview after the meeting, Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure discussions, challenged the opposition’s assertions regarding traffic on nearby roads. He said the unbuilt Treasure project is not responsible for the conditions shown in the images displayed on Wednesday.
“I saw all the pictures. That’s life in Old Town. That’s what it’s like,” Sweeney said.
He said the solution to the issues should not involve preventing the development of Treasure. Sweeney said the cabriolet and other measures could improve the traffic situation.
“We’re not increasing the amount of traffic that much,” he said. “If there’s a problem today, it’s not going to change.”
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Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, has died, the municipal government said. Erickson was involved at some level in nearly all the major decisions regarding growth and development in Park City since the early 1990s.