The Park Record editorial, July 21-23, 2010 | ParkRecord.com
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The Park Record editorial, July 21-23, 2010

Air Force hotel move to Wasatch County is a big disappointment

In a terse press release issued Monday, the Air Force said it has ditched plans to build its military retreat in Summit County and has instead selected a location in Wasatch County. The announcement must be disappointing to Park City and Summit County officials who negotiated with the Air Force for nearly a decade to find a workable location for the hotel that would offer discounted rates to servicemen and their families.

According to the press release, "this is an example of how public-private partnerships should work."

Really?

When the Air Force began scouring the countryside for a site to replace Snowbasin’s aging Hill Haus retreat, it set its sights on a prime piece of Park City open space. It took local officials several trips to Washington, D.C., and help from their congressmen to convince the military to consider an alternative site.

The Air Force’s second choice, at Quinn’s Junction, was also problematic. The proposed hotel and commercial development clashed with local zoning calling for recreational open space. The negotiations became tense as local citizens were told that, ultimately, military needs trump local zoning.

At that point then-Gov. Jon Huntsman stepped in to smooth ruffled feathers. Through its state agency, the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA), the Air Force sat down again with local officials to try another tack. After much closed-door hocus-pocus, a new deal emerged involving an unspecified site at The Canyons Resort and a separate commercial site on a city/county owned parcel along U.S. 40 near the Silver Creek Commerce Center. It seemed like a perfect compromise a resort setting with all the trimmings for the servicemen and an appropriately zoned commercial site.

Make no mistake Parkites were excited about hosting airmen on their holidays, and still hope to do so even if the hotel itself is located in Wasatch County. But calling the years-long exercise a model for future public-private partnerships is a stretch a long one at that.

Parkites may never know why negotiations to locate the hotel at The Canyons broke down. The parties on all sides have been mum. The decision to locate the hotel in Wasatch County, however, raises questions about the commercial side of the deal in Summit County. As part of the negotiations, which took place in May, a portion of the tax revenues generated by the commercial development in Silver Creek would have been diverted from local coffers to help subsidize the discounted room rates at the hotel, thereby making a smaller hotel feasible for the developer. If that aspect of the project is still in play, giving up taxes seems a lot less palatable when they are being used to bolster a project in another county.

One thing is apparent: A huge amount of energy has been expended on these very convoluted negotiations. If the Air Force, MIDA, Park City Municipal, Summit County and The Canyons had found a way to come to terms sooner, deserving servicemen could have been enjoying a summer vacation in the mountains right now.


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