Sweeney rights remain intact | ParkRecord.com

Sweeney rights remain intact

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Treasure special counsel Jody Burnett this week affirmed the Sweeney family’s longstanding rights for the development, indicating in a much-anticipated report that the family has made sufficient progress over the years to keep a 1980s overall approval for the project intact.

Burnett delivered his report to the Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday and to the City Council the next day. Burnett, an attorney hired by City Hall to comb through the earlier approval for Treasure, said in his written opinion the project continues to hold vested rights, a term often used by municipal planners and attorneys to describe a development that had been approved previously but is not yet built.

Burnett said in the four-page opinion Treasure "has continuing vested rights which are valid." He said City Hall should continue to consider the family’s bid to build Treasure, which would be situated on a hillside overlooking Old Town on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.

He said the Sweeneys have set aside land as open space and built trails as part of the 1986 approval. The family has also built smaller parts of the overall approval, such as what was put up as the Caledonian.

"From my vantage point, they have definitely pursued the project with reasonable diligence," Burnett said in an interview after addressing the Planning Commission.

Meanwhile, Burnett also said the rights for meeting rooms and commercial space supporting a hotel at Treasure should be capped at 5 percent of the total floor area. He mentioned, though, the Sweeneys have other rights to commercial space that could be in play.

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It is unclear what effects the opinion about the commercial space will have on the Sweeney plans, which include convention space. There have been increasing concerns among critics about the meeting space.

The Planning Commission has struggled with the project since talks about Treasure started in 2004. City Councilors, at the request of the Planning Commission, agreed to hire a special counsel to review the Sweeney files. Members of the Planning Commission and people who live on streets like Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue are worried that the development no longer fits.

The Sweeneys want to build a hotel with approximately 200 rooms and approximately 100 condominiums along with 19,000 square feet of commercial space. The Sweeneys say the project would boost business in the Main Street area and provide a high-end lodging option for people wanting to stay close to Main Street.

Neighbors and others, though, are worried about traffic, parking restrictions and the size of the buildings, among other issues. The Planning Commission on Wednesday listened to approximately 40 minutes of testimony from nine people in opposition, with many of the comments centered on traffic. The Sweeneys contend the streets, with improvements and other transportation upgrades like a stand-up gondola, are adequate.

"They always have an answer. The answer is we can do it," said Peter Marth, a Hillside Avenue resident, as he questioned traffic studies favorable to developers.

Planning Commissioners on Wednesday were suspect of the Sweeney plans as well, with comments including that the parking plans are not innovative and they want other alternatives. The Planning Commission tentatively agreed to continue the discussions in late June.

Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council met with Burnett on Thursday in a closed-door session. The City Council agenda for Thursday indicated the closed-door session was scheduled to last more than two hours and cover property matters and legal issues, two topics that state law allows elected officials to talk about in private.

Williams declined to discuss the closed-door session.

"There’s more than just the report," he said, referring to the Burnett opinion.