Treasure talks, long ago, offer clues into Park City official’s sentiments
The Treasure developers more than a decade ago, on Jan. 12, 2005, were in front of the Park City Planning Commission to discuss what had already become a hotly contested proposal for a project on a hillside overlooking Old Town.
It had been nearly a year since the developers submitted paperwork at City Hall for the project. The Planning Commission was in the early stages of what would become years of discussions about Treasure. There was only moderate progress over that time before a lengthy hiatus in the talks that is only now about to end as the developers plan to return to the Planning Commission with Treasure.
On that night, the Planning Commission discussed many points, including that the proposal stemmed from an overall 1980s development approval secured by the Sweeney family involving the Treasure acreage itself and nearby parcels of land. As part of the negotiations that led to the 1980s approval, the Treasure side agreed to position development toward the bottom of the acreage and set aside the upper land as open space.
One of the members of the panel noted the 1980s approval in his comments. It was Bruce Erickson, by then a veteran of the Planning Commission seen as a moderate panelist who relied heavily on City Hall’s growth documents as he reached conclusions about projects.
"Commissioner Erickson clarified that there is an existing development agreement in effect for this project, and the Planning Commission is reviewing the project under the terms of that development agreement," the minutes of that meeting say. "While they will give as much credence as they can to the traffic situation, the Planning Commission is still bound by a legal contract. If the residents pack the room with people wanting to comment on traffic, they also need to pack the room when the Planning Commission tries to find a solution to allow the development to move ahead in its current form under the terms of a valid agreement."
Erickson spent 16 consecutive years on the Planning Commission, ending in 2005. He served during the early days of the Treasure discussions. Erickson is now the planning director at City Hall, starting on an interim basis in July of 2015 and eventually being named to the permanent position. As the planning director, Erickson will have a critical role in the upcoming talks about Treasure. He is expected to be heavily involved internally, as City Hall staff reports are drafted and Planning Commission agendas are set. Erickson will also almost certainly have an important role when staffers eventually craft a recommendation to the Planning Commission regarding Treasure.
The minutes of the early Planning Commission meetings about Treasure offer extraordinary insight into the thinking of Erickson at the time. Although the Treasure developers have modified the project since then, the changes have generally involved shifting square footage from one location on the acreage to another. The amount of development sought approximately 1 million square feet and the overall concept of Treasure have not changed since Erickson served on the Planning Commission. The modifications could address some of the concerns Erickson expressed as a Planning Commissioner, but it is not known whether they are dramatic enough to win his support as the planning director.
Erickson on Monday declined to comment about his statements while a member of the Planning Commission, citing the modifications in the project between the time he served on the panel and now.
Erickson and other Planning Commissioners over the years had concerns about certain aspects of Treasure. Significant time has been spent on topics like traffic and the height of the proposed buildings. Numerous other issues, including concerns about the architectural designs, construction and the potential of contaminated soils at the site, have also been broached.
The minutes of Planning Commission meetings in 2004 and 2005 show Erickson also had concerns about some of the key Treasure issues. He spoke about the designs, that the Sweeney family earlier had set aside some of the Treasure acreage from development and traffic, at one point delving into details like the geometry of intersections that are expected to be impacted by Treasure traffic.
Treasure is now under the ownership of a partnership involving the Sweeney family, which was the historic owner of the property, and an investor. Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the Treasure discussions with the Planning Commission, was in attendance during the meetings when Erickson served on the panel.
Sweeney said he recalls Erickson "being impactful" during the meetings in 2004 and 2005.
"He asks what I would call penetrating questions . . . He likes to daylight the issues," Sweeney said.
Sweeney said he is not concerned Erickson’s opinions as a Planning Commissioner will influence his duties as the planning director. He will not be an "impediment to the process," Sweeney said. He said he anticipates Erickson will continue to ask tough questions.
"It will be interesting to see what the contrast may be, or the similarities," Sweeney said.
Erickson’s statements, a decade on
Some of the statements Erickson made during the Planning Commission meetings, as written in the minutes, include:
Nearly a dozen Park City and Summit County officials sat on a public panel Wednesday to outline the way forward on wildfire management and to answer questions from residents.