Sides scramble for Sweeney answer
City Hall and the Sweeney family at the end of the week were scrambling to find evidence showing whether the family must build almost 50 units of affordable housing at the proposed Treasure Hill development.
The Sweeneys claim that a letter from the government, perhaps dating to the early 1990s, acknowledged that City Hall’s affordable-housing requirements did not apply to the project. By Thursday, though, neither the Sweeneys nor the government could produce documentation.
They launched the search after Pat Putt, the Planning director, said in a report that the Sweeneys had not yet provided the government with a plan for what City Hall determined to be a required 47 units of affordable housing. Putt’s report blindsided the Sweenys, who had been proceeding under the assumption that they did not have to build the affordable housing.
The dispute about the affordable housing added tension to a week in which the Sweeneys appeared in front of the Planning Commission. The commissioners have been holding hearings and debating the application since 2004 and the affordable-housing question is one of the most notable developments in the discussions in recent months.
Should the Sweeneys be forced to build the 47 units, the size of Treasure Hill, which lots of neighbors say is already too big, would likely expand to accommodate the housing requirement.
In an interview, Putt said he and Park City Attorney Mark Harrington expected to canvass two decades of Treasure Hill documents searching for evidence regarding the affordable housing.
"I have not personally seen anything that would exempt them from that requirement," Putt said, stating that he wants to complete the research within a few weeks.
Pat Sweeney, who represents his family, said he was conducting a similar search of his files. He said he must look through four or five big boxes of files for the documentation.
Mike Sweeney, one of Pat’s brothers, however, was adamant during a Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday that the family was not required to build the housing.
‘"It wasn’t there we had to do it," he told the commissioners, indicating there was disagreement among the three Sweeney brothers regarding the housing.
Otherwise, the Wednesday meeting lacked the fireworks that have marked previous Planning Commission hearings regarding Treasure Hill.
Testimony from regular Parkites was brief and included a comment that traffic in the neighborhood is not that bad now and that the expected increases in drivers would not be dangerous.
That comment is in opposition to most of the testimony that the commissioners have received from neighbors. They have said repeatedly that the traffic driving to and from Treasure Hill would be terrible and that roads like Lowell and Empire avenues are not equipped to handle the Treasure Hill-related traffic. Traffic engineers, however, have found that the roads, with planned upgrades, are adequate for the anticipated traffic.
David Belz, who lives nearby, acknowledged that there would be more traffic sometimes but said the benefits he predicts from Treasure Hill, like a more "animated" Park City, are a good tradeoff.
"I don’t embrace the fears that others have expressed," Belz said.
The Planning Commissioners seem to be nearing a decision on the Treasure Hill application but a vote is not scheduled yet. It was unclear on Wednesday when commissioners would resume the discussions and hold another hearing.
Putt said he expects to craft an expansive report about Treasure Hill and make a recommendation about whether commissioners should approve or deny the application by early summer. The report is a "very big priority for us," Putt said.
Jim Barth, the chairman of the Planning Commission, indicated that, when the upcoming Putt report is complete, he wants to dedicate a meeting exclusively to Treasure Hill.
The Treasure Hill application asks the Planning Commission to approve 282 units, like condominiums, townhouses and hotel suites, and 19,000 square feet of commercial space. The 282 units do not include affordable housing, if it is required.
The Sweeney family holds longstanding rights to develop the land and the current talks are regarding the project’s design.
The development would be split between two parcels of land just west of Old Town, nearby the Town Lift, on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.
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