Park City’s $64 million Treasure deal seen as a ‘bargain’
The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday night pledged its support to a City Hall effort to acquire the long-disputed Treasure acreage, a move that was widely expected but one that was conveyed with an understanding that others have reservations with what would be the municipal government’s most expensive conservation deal.
The Planning Commission unanimously passed a resolution backing the acquisition, a vote that was cast after the panel has spent more than a decade in on-and-off talks about a development proposal involving upward of 1 million square feet.
“Yay,” Planning Commissioner Melissa Band said just before the resolution passed, conveying her excitement.
The Treasure partnership of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC was locked in difficult talks with the Planning Commission about the project itself before Park City’s elected officials and the Treasure partnership reached a $64 million deal for the municipal government to acquire the land, which is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift.
The deal depends on a ballot measure raising property taxes that will be put to voters in November to raise most of the funds needed. The ballot measure is expected to be priced at between $50 million and $55 million.
The Planning Commission has expressed deep-rooted concerns about issues like the traffic Treasure would draw to streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue, the excavation the project would require and the overall size of the development proposal.
The resolution approved by the Planning Commission also acted as an indefinite postponement of the panel’s talks about the project. If the ballot measure fails, the Treasure partnership would be expected to return to the Planning Commission discussions with a project scaled back by 10 percent. The reduction is part of the agreement between the partnership and City Hall. It required the municipal government to forward $6 million to the Treasure side as a de facto down payment.
The resolution, meanwhile, said the Planning Commission discussions about Treasure and the materials produced as part of the talks will be preserved in case the ballot measure fails and the project returns to the panel. The resolution also said the Planning Commission review will not be prejudiced if Treasure is heard again.
The Planning Commission appeared upbeat on Wednesday evening after months of Treasure meetings that were some of the most difficult in years. The panelists did not delve into detailed development matters and instead expressed support and discussed what role they could play during the upcoming campaign.
“It’s the perfect solution to an enormous problem,” said Adam Strachan, the chair of the Planning Commission, calling the $64 million price tag a “bargain.”
Strachan said there are costs associated with the desire of Park City residents to preserve the community’s quality of life. Preston Campbell, another member of the Planning Commission, said the worst scenario will occur if the ballot measure fails.
It was unclear what sort of role the individual Planning Commissioners could play during the campaign. The Planning Commission as a body must remain objective since Treasure would return to the panel if the ballot measure fails, Park City Attorney Mark Harrington cautioned. It seems the individual Planning Commissioners will advocate on behalf of the ballot measure as private citizens.
Planning Commissioner Preston Campbell said efforts are needed to educate people about the matter. He said voters are more apt to support the acquisition if they learn about the deal.
“We’ve got a bunch of work to do,” Campbell said.
Mayor Andy Beerman, who was in attendance on Wednesday, told the Planning Commission activists will be sought to campaign in favor of the ballot measure. He said he has heard lots of support as people describe to him their interest in preserving the quality of life in Park City.
The Planning Commission received brief public testimony from supporters of the acquisition. Steven Swanson, a critic of the Treasure development proposal, said he supports the ballot measure and future generations will be pleased if the land is acquired.
“I think Treasure is Park City,” Swanson said.
John Stafsholt, another opponent of the development, addressed the prospects of City Hall after an acquisition tapping a municipal program allowing the transfer of some of the development rights attached to the Treasure land to another location. The mayor told him the use of the program would be allowed if the land is acquired.
“That kind of muddies the water,” Stafsholt responded.
He said the possibility of City Hall transferring the development rights hurts public opinion about the ballot measure. Stafsholt also said details are needed about a 10 percent reduction in Treasure should voters reject the deal.
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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.