Treasure pummeled in especially pointed meeting
The Treasure developers received a pummeling on Wednesday night, one of the worst in the decade-plus that the polarizing project has been under review, as members of a City Hall panel and a broad lineup of critics seized on numerous issues during an especially pointed meeting.
It was by a wide margin the most intense Park City Planning Commission meeting about Treasure since talks restarted earlier in the summer. The Wednesday meeting also seemed to outdo in its intensity many of the earlier gatherings about Treasure prior to a hiatus that lasted upward of six years before the sides re-engaged in June.
The Treasure developers — a partnership of the Sweeney family, which is the historic landowner, and a firm called Park City II, LLC — want the Planning Commission to approve a project encompassing approximately 1 million square feet of residences, commercial space and meeting space on a hillside overlooking Old Town close to the route of the Town Lift. The developers in the 1980s secured an overall approval for a project on the Treasure land and nearby parcels and are now seeking another necessary permit.
The Planning Commission remains in the early stages of the discussions, but the panel is addressing the critical topic of square footage. The decisions made regarding the square footage will greatly influence later talks about issues like traffic and the building designs.
A wide gap appears to be evolving between the Treasure side and the Planning Commission regarding square footage. It remained unclear after the meeting on Wednesday how the issue could be resolved. The Treasure side sees the 1980s approval as contemplating the approximately 1 million square feet sought, but the Planning Commission seems unconvinced that is the case. Project critics, meanwhile, contend the proposal is too large and would not fit in a location that is just off Old Town streets.
The meeting, held at the spacious Santy Auditorium instead of the Park City Council chambers to accommodate more people, drew a medium-sized crowd that was largely unhappy with the project. Some of the people in the audience wore T-shirts promoting the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, an opposition group.
The Treasure side argued Park City officials who granted the overall approval in the 1980s understood the project would be substantial when developed. Shawn Ferrin, an attorney who represents the developers, told the Planning Commission the history of Treasure and the 1980s approval “cannot be ignored.”
“Park City knew it was approving a large-scale development,” Ferrin said, describing that a 1980s City Hall report about the project referred to a “high-rise concept.”
The leaders of that era and the public at the time would have understood the project would be large and situated close to Old Town, he said. Ferrin said the square footage is comparable to other large projects in Park City and it is “clearly reasonable and should be approved.”
The meeting drew three people who held official positions during the Treasure discussions in the 1980s. Jim Doilney and Ann MacQuoid were members of the City Council then while Brad Olch was a Planning Commissioner. They attended to bolster the opposition.
Doilney said the square-footage question could have influenced the City Council to deny the overall approval in the 1980s. MacQuoid said comparisons between the current Treasure proposal and high-end hotels that have been built in Park City in the intervening decades, such as St. Regis Deer Valley and Montage Deer Valley, are not relevant to the 1980s approval. Olch, meanwhile, said a traffic study of the current proposal would not justify the square footage.
“Park City will never be the same again” if Treasure is approved, Olch said, predicting the project would “have such negative, lasting impacts.”
An attorney representing the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, Charles Stormont, said the proposal has grown in square footage over the years. He argued the number should be limited to 413,000 square feet based on the earlier overall approval. He said the eventual number should not reflect what a consultant deems necessary for the project.
“They do not guarantee a profitable hotel development,” he said about the 1980s overall approval.
John Stafsholt, another Treasure critic, said the project should be compatible with surrounding Old Town. He also claimed the Treasure side seeks changes significant enough to warrant a new overall approval, something that would trigger a different level of review.
Another speaker, Old Town resident Ed Parigian, told the Planning Commission the Treasure side is unwilling to compromise. He also worried about the size of Treasure.
“Everything is out of scale completely,” he said.
Individual Planning Commissioners on Wednesday continued to have concerns about the square footage as the panel anticipates spending several more meetings on the topic. The panel could signal its intention regarding the square footage by the middle of fall, perhaps at a meeting in October.
Steve Joyce, a member of the Planning Commission, offered lengthy comments for the second consecutive Treasure meeting. He said there is “tremendous” confusion about the 1980s approval and questioned what sort of square footage for meeting space was a part of the approval. Joyce said comparisons between the Treasure proposal and other projects like the Montage Deer Valley and St. Regis Deer Valley are helpful, but he noted Treasure is located close to a neighborhood while the others are not.
“You guys are sitting right on top of Old Town,” Joyce said.
The Planning Commission is next scheduled to address Treasure at a meeting on Sept. 14. The panel expects to visit the site that day as well. The proposed height of Treasure will be marked in some fashion during the visit. The Sept. 14 meeting is expected to again address square footage.
Treasure a legacy
The Sweeney family, the historic owner of the Treasure acreage, sees the disputed project as a part of its legacy.
That affirmation was underscored, loudly, at an especially tense moment during the Planning Commission meeting.
One of the leading opposition figures to the project testified during the meeting, mentioning a variety of topics. In his comments to the Planning Commission, Brian Van Hecke from the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition asked whether Treasure is the legacy the Sweeney family wants to leave.
Mike Sweeney, one of three brothers involved in Treasure, was in the audience as Van Hecke spoke.
“Unequivocally, yes,” Sweeney said in a loud voice in response to Van Hecke.
It was not clear whether Van Hecke or the Planning Commission could hear the response by Sweeney.
Pat Sweeney, another of the brothers, is the family’s lead figure in the Treasure negotiations. Mike Sweeney and the other brother, Ed Sweeney, attend many of the Treasure meetings, however. Mike Sweeney is a businessman involved in the family’s holdings at the Town Lift Plaza.
The idea of Treasure as a Sweeney family legacy has long been a point in the discussions about the project. The Sweeney family views Treasure as a project that will boost Park City’s tourism-heavy economy, something that the family sees as a legacy.
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Park City recently detailed the efforts to fill a range of vacant municipal posts in 2018 and 2019 as officials described the challenges City Hall has encountered in its hiring amid a hot economy.