Sept. 5, 2009: Sweeney leads mountainside trek of Treasure |

Sept. 5, 2009: Sweeney leads mountainside trek of Treasure

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A group of Parkites, numbering some 60 people and including City Hall officials and critics of the Sweeney family’s Treasure development proposal, recently visited the site of the disputed project, following one of the three Sweeney brothers on a mountainside trek through the land.

It was an important field trip as the Park City Planning Commission continues its talks about Treasure, and it provided one of the best opportunities for the panel and regular Parkites to learn about the proposed layout of the project.

The group spent approximately 1 1/2 hours on the site, listening to Pat Sweeney, who is leading the family’s efforts in front of the Planning Commission, describe the buildings that would be put up in Treasure. Much of the chatter on the tour focused on the proposed buildings rather than the amount of traffic Treasure is expected to attract, which is a lingering concern for the critics who live on streets like Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue.

Sweeney led the group across the Town Bridge and onto the lower section of the hillside on the western edge of Old Town. He pointed out spots that the family wants to develop and spoke about what his side sees as Treasure highlights, including a stand-up gondola, known as a cabriolet, linking the site to the Town Lift Plaza.

Sweeney spent much of the time pointing out the development sites and the proposed heights at the locations. A booklet handed out on the tour indicates the tallest building would climb to 105 feet and another one nearby would reach 97 feet.

Meanwhile, the booklet shows that people looking at the buildings from most vantages would see only a portion of them since they would be partially built below the grade of the hillside, a common practice when developing on mountainous land. One of the buildings, as an example, would range between 39 and 74 feet above the grade but have up to another 48 feet below the grade.

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In answering a question from one of the people on the tour, Sweeney said it is better that the buildings be taller than the developers putting up additional buildings to make up the difference in square footage. When the Sweeneys received an overall approval for Treasure in the 1980s, Park City officials endorsed taller buildings in an effort to preserve much of the land as open space, the family has long maintained.

"It’s the old height versus spread it out," Sweeney said.

The Planning Commission has spent more than five years considering Treasure, wrestling with traffic concerns and worries about the layout of the project. The Sweeneys hold development rights at the site dating from the 1980s approval, but the Planning Commission must formally endorse the current proposal as well.

The Sweeneys are seeking an approval for 200 hotel rooms, 100 condominiums and commercial and convention space. The project would be situated on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.

The Planning Commission held a short hearing after the visit to the site. Three people testified, with Brian Van Hecke, an Empire Avenue resident and leading critic of Treasure, requesting a detailed map of the development showing the heights of the buildings, what the buildings will be used for and how many square feet each building would be. The panel is scheduled to hold another hearing on Sept. 23.

In an interview after the meeting, Van Hecke said he appreciated the visit to the site, saying Sweeney was "forthright and honest" about Treasure. Van Hecke said many people remain worried about the proposal.

"There’s still a lot of confusion. What people do comprehend is there is a lot of concern, dire concern," he said.