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Sweeneys’ rights affirmed

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall two years ago affirmed the Sweeney family’s rights to pursue the controversial Treasure Hill application, a memo released last week shows.

Project opponents have repeatedly disputed the family’s rights, which date to the mid-1980s, charging that the officials who approved the project then did not foresee the growth of the neighborhood in the years since.

Recently, the chairman of the Park City Planning Commission, Jim Barth, questioned whether the Treasure Hill approval should be nullified because, he said, the Sweeneys did not proceed with the development on an appropriate timeline.

But Park City Attorney Mark Harrington’s memo to Planning Commissioners and Kirsten Whetstone, the City Hall planner assigned to the Treasure Hill application, outlines the government’s position that the 1986 approval remains intact.

Harrington’s opinion was dated April 9, 2004 and distributed most recently to the Planning Commissioners and the public at an April 12 meeting.

The Sweeneys quickly rebuffed Barth’s suggestions that the approval be nullified, saying that they had been working on elements of the overall Treasure Hill plan for years.

In the two-page 2004 opinion, Harrington said City Hall "has consistently determined that the Sweeneys are in compliance" with the timeline of the overall 1986 approval. He indicated that past city attorneys, including Jodi Hoffman and Jim Carter, concurred when they were asked to render an opinion in previous years. Harrington said he found the Sweeneys in compliance at a previous time, in 2001.

Carter, according to Harrington’s memo, in 1992 told the Planning Commission that the Sweeneys had "substantially complied with the contractual elements" of the approval by rezoning lots of their land, dedicating easements for roads and building trails.

In an interview, Harrington explained that the Sweeneys, because of the size of the development, which is bigger than most that City Hall contemplates, provided what is known as a phasing plan. That plan allows the Sweeneys to build the overall project over many years compared to other developers, who generally must construct their project under a more constrained timeline.

"A phasing plan acknowledges it is such a large development it cannot be contemplated to be built in one time period," Harrington said.

Harrington said he prepared the memo in anticipation of project opponents challenging the validity of the 1986 approval.

Barth had not read the memo by the beginning of the week and on Monday declined to comment on its contents.

The 1986 plan, one of the most ambitious of that era, called for a series of buildings and ski upgrades, including what was constructed in the mid-1990s as the Caledonian and what was built as the Town Bridge over Park Avenue. Seven houses were approved then, according to Pat Sweeney, who represents his family, and four are complete and three are under construction.

He said completed improvements to ski runs at Park City Mountain Resort were also identified in the overall plan.

"We’ve been working on something, hard working, consistently since we got the plan approved," Sweeney said, adding it would not surprise him if someone else questions the overall approval before the Planning Commission votes on the current Treasure Hill application.

Sweeney had made similar statements to The Park Record immediately after Barth’s suggestion.

The current Treasure Hill application requests an approval for about 282 units, such as condominiums, townhouses and hotel suites, and 19,000 square feet of commercial space. The development would be split between two tracts, known as the midstation parcel and Creole Gulch, on the 11.5-acre parcel. The ground is located just west of Old Town, on the slopes of PCMR.

It is unclear when the Planning Commission will vote. Its discussions have extended for more than two years and it seems that the panel is nearing a vote, perhaps sometime in the late spring or early summer.

Although the Planning Commission has the power to approve or deny the application, given the controversy Treasure Hill has spurred, the Park City Council could review the lower panel’s decision. That could happen either through an appeal or the City Council’s request to reconsider the Planning Commission’s decision.

The Treasure Hill application has drawn lots of criticism from people living on nearby streets like Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue. The opponents of the project are mostly from the neighborhood. They are especially worried about what they say will be an unacceptable increase in the amount of traffic on their streets. Traffic studies have determined that the roads are adequate to handle the expected increases.


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