Realtors worry about ‘undue burden’ on taxpayers of a total Treasure buyout
The Park City Board of Realtors, an influential interest group made up of upward of 850 people in the industry, recently sent a statement to City Hall officials indicating "it would not be fiscally responsible" for the municipal government to completely buy out the Sweeney family’s Treasure development rights.
The statement was addressed to Mayor Dana Williams, Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson, City Manager Tom Bakaly and Jonathan Weidenhamer, a City Hall staffer who is involved in the Treasure talks. Williams and Simpson are leading City Hall’s negotiations with the Sweeney family about some sort of conservation deal for the Treasure land. Williams mentioned the existence of the statement at a recent City Council meeting, but he did not disclose the contents at the meeting.
The statement, as it briefly discusses the prospects of a Treasure deal, says a complete buyout of the development rights "would place an undue burden on tax payers."
The statement from the Board of Realtors comes as City Hall and the Sweeney family are amid a round of high-stakes negotiations, with many holding out hope that a conservation agreement can be struck to eliminate all or most of the development rights at the Treasure site, situated on a prominent hillside overlooking Old Town close to the Town Lift.
But any agreement is expected to carry a significant price tag, and it is widely anticipated that a deal would be the costliest conservation purchase City Hall has ever negotiated, perhaps soaring into the nine digits for a complete buyout of the development rights. The negotiators have not made public statements about prices and have said the talks had not advanced to that phase. Simpson recently indicated it could be into the fall before a dollar amount is targeted.
The ramifications on property taxes could be significant, though. City Hall does not have funding set aside for a purchase, and it is presumed that officials will put a ballot measure to voters to hike property taxes to raise the money needed to finalize a Treasure agreement.
Property owners in Park City are already paying off three previous conservation bonds, each of which voters passed by wide margins. The dollar amount involved in a Treasure ballot measure will almost certainly be higher than the other three, which topped out at $20 million.
In an interview, the president of the Board of Realtors, Mark Seltenrich, retreated from some of the verbiage of the statement. He said it should have read that a complete buyout "could place an undue burden on tax payers" instead of using the word "would" to begin the phrase. He also said he would have rather have written the phrase "it might not be fiscally responsible" instead of using the phrase it "would not be fiscally responsible."
He said in an interview the prospects of a property-tax increase related to a Treasure bond would not lead someone considering buying in Park City to rethink the city. Property taxes in Park City are low compared to other places in the U.S., he said.
Seltenrich said Board of Realtors staffers wrote a draft of the statement and he finalized the verbiage.
The statement also touches on other points, with the Board of Realtors saying it "applauds" the City Hall-Sweeney family talks, it acknowledges the Sweeneys hold development rights at the site and that the Treasure proposal has stirred controversy. The statement says it is a "good solution" for the sides to consider alternate blueprints, as is currently being done.
Meanwhile, the statement says, better linking the slopes with the town "will enhance Park City’s appeal as a destination resort."
"As business owners ourselves, we also recognize it is important to consider the economic component of any proposed project and how that might benefit the community," the statement says.
In an interview, Seltenrich said homesellers have "mixed feelings" about Treasure, similar to those held by regular Parkites.
"I think most people would say there’s probably some compromise in there," he said.
The Sweeneys hold longstanding development rights at the Treasure site but became entangled in their talks with the city’s Planning Commission. The Sweeneys want an approval for a hotel, condominiums, convention space and commercial square footage.
Planning Commissioners have been critical of the blueprints and people who live on streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue, as well as people from elsewhere in Park City, have condemned the Treasure proposal, saying the buildings would loom over the neighborhood and nearby streets cannot handle the anticipated Treasure traffic.
Parkites appear to be moving into various camps as the negotiations about a conservation deal continue. One of the groups supports a buyout of some sort, saying that they would back a ballot measure to fund a deal. Another group, though, would be wary about approving a property-tax increase for a Treasure deal.
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Hideout’s original master developer is suing the town and planner for $100 million.