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Snow Park talks approach

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Below Deer Valley Resort’s lower runs, in sight of where some of the skiing competitions were held during the 2002 Winter Olympics, sit acres of prime real estate.

Now the resort’s sprawling Snow Park parking lots spread over the land, where parking attendants skillfully line up the cars at the beginning of the ski day.

But Deer Valley eventually wants to build expensive real estate on the land, a long-planned project known as Snow Park Village. Resort officials say they may seek the necessary approvals for the project from City Hall as early as the second half of 2007, making Snow Park Village likely the most significant new development request that the local government will consider next year.

Bob Wells, who directs the development wing of Deer Valley, says the resort expects to decide this winter whether to pursue the project. If the resort does so, he says the Deer Valley team will finalize designs and approach the Park City Planning Commission.

Wells acknowledges that Park City’s humming real-estate market is influencing Deer Valley. He says the project will be expensive to build, especially constructing a parking garage to replace the spots in the Snow Park lots. Before, the market did not warrant such an investment, he says.

"Due to the values at the time as compared to the cost of putting parking in a structure, (it) didn’t make the potential project feasible," Wells says.

According to Wells, Deer Valley’s overall approval, which dates to the 1970s and encompasses between 50 and 60 projects, many of which are built, contemplated development on the Snow Park lots. He says the 1970s decision allows about 400,000 square feet of residential space and about 40,000 square feet of commercial.

Wells says Deer Valley is unsure how it will divvy up the residential space. He says the resort will likely pursue a hotel and condominiums but the details are not decided. He expects between eight and 12 buildings will be put up on the Snow Park lots, which stretch for 15 acres.

It is expected that Snow Park Village would be almost exclusively vacation properties, similar to the rest of Deer Valley.

Deer Valley will probably face opposition from neighbors and their testimony would be expected to target traffic. Deer Valley Drive would carry most of the traffic to Snow Park, as it does now, and there are a few neighborhoods that front the road or sit on side streets. People there have worried before about development-related traffic increases, including as the Line Condominiums on Deer Valley Drive were considered.

Wells says Snow Park’s development potential has been weighed as other projects were approved, including Empire Pass, which is on the slopes of Deer Valley.

He says traffic from Snow Park Village would be heavy at the same time resort-related traffic already occurs, in the morning and afternoon.

"I would say it would not increase traffic that much during the peak-movement hours," Wells says.

Harvey LaPointe, who lives on the 500 block of Deer Valley Drive, worries about the traffic, asking if, one day, people might choose to live in the project all year. If so, there would be more people driving on Deer Valley Drive.

"It’s going to make a lot more traffic, obviously, and you basically have one way in and one way out," LaPointe says.

LaPointe, however, predicts there will not be lots of opposition from neighbors. He says people who live along Deer Valley Drive realize that the project has the overall approvals already.

"I’ll bet you their reputation for doing things well and all of that stuff will overcome the image issue," he says about Deer Valley.

If Deer Valley pursues the project, the resort will join a booming real-estate market, including other large developments at the resort. Empire Pass and Deer Crest are each under construction on Deer Valley’s slopes.

Meanwhile, at Park City Mountain Resort, Silver Star is under construction and the Sweeney family wants to build Treasure Hill, which, like Snow Park Village, is part of an earlier overall approval. The Sweeney project would be built on the slopes of PCMR, just west of Old Town. Developers at The Canyons are also proceeding with new projects.

Wells says Snow Park will probably not compete with the other developments, asserting that the units at Snow Park will be smaller than those elsewhere and that, by the time construction starts at Snow Park, the others will be ahead. Wells says the construction at Snow Park will probably last four or five years and will be done in phases.

Michael O’Hara, the chairman of the city’s Planning Commission, says traffic will be a concern and he says the panel will also have questions if Deer Valley requests tall buildings.

"The neighbors are going to tell us that’s a residential area and we don’t want 18-wheel trucks," O’Hara says, guessing that Deer Valley Drive can handle the potential traffic increase.

O’Hara says if Snow Park Village is pursued, lower Deer Valley will look better.

"Whatever they bring to us will most likely be a better choice than a parking lot," he says.


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