The Park Record Editorial, May 5, 2010
Someone should plant a tree to make up for all of the paperwork that has gone into the complex deal currently under consideration by Park City and Summit County with the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA). Actually, though, if the deal is approved, countless trees on the Gambel Oak and Red Maple parcels may be saved from development and thousands of U.S. military personnel will have the opportunity to enjoy discounted vacations in Park City.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is currently up for formal approval by the Summit County and Park City councils involves a multi-part real estate transaction in which the city and county would sell a jointly owned parcel east of U.S. 40 near The Home Depot to MIDA, which would develop it as a commercial center to help finance the construction of a hotel for military personnel at The Canyons.
The MOU constitutes a broad agreement on the size and density of the commercial project, and the sharing of tax revenues. It is especially significant because, according to state law, MIDA’s powers supercede local jurisdictions. Roughly translated, that means they could have built a hotel anywhere and as super-sized as they wanted to.
In fact, back in the1990s, that was the original plan. When the Hillhaus Lodge, a longtime recreation spot for the military at Snowbasin, was demolished to make way for the 2002 Winter Olympic downhill venue, the military turned a hungry eye toward a piece of Bureau of Land Management property in Park City. But the undeveloped hillside, known as Gambel Oak, was a favorite of local hikers and an important part of Old Town’s viewshed. Citizens bristled at the idea of a hotel looming over them and their elected leaders bravely stood up to the mighty military.
What ensued was a decade of diplomatic brinksmanship on the part of the city entailing several flights to Washington, D.C., and testimony before Congress. As longtime City councilmember Candy Erickson remembers it, their mission has been fraught with obstacles and near failure. For instance, officials were finally able to move the military’s sights off of Gambel Oak when a new, equally undesirable site came under scrutiny. A developer who also wanted to build a large scale movie studio along State Road 248 near Quinn’s Junction was intent on attracting the military project. City officials feared that would have put a large commercial development smack in the middle of their recreation and open-space zone.
Putting their best negotiating skills to the test, city officials eventually convinced the military that vacationers would be much happier and better served by a hotel at the base an established resort. In fact, The Canyons seemed to have a location that would work, although that exact spot has not yet been disclosed.
That notion made sense, but the clincher was when Park City and Summit County came up with the idea of splitting the necessary commercial support for the project away from the hotel site and offered to sell a mutually owned parcel east of U.S. 40 to MIDA.
Hopefully, the MOU will be approved without a hitch and both the commercial project and the hotel can get underway post haste.
Park City and Summit County residents will be honored to host the servicemen and their families when the new hotel is up and running, and we believe the guests will be pleased to be at the hub of all that the resorts have to offer. Also, the parcel in the county’s established industrial/commercial zone could add a welcome dimension to the growing number of businesses in that area.
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