Treasure: a ‘little New York’ in the hills above Old Town |

Treasure: a ‘little New York’ in the hills above Old Town

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Sweeney family on two occasions in late October and early November led tours of the land where they want to build the disputed Treasure development, bringing City Hall officials and regular Parkites into the hills above Old Town to show where the buildings would be situated and how tall they would be.

The tours, guided by Pat Sweeney, who is leading the family’s efforts, drew approximately 30 people between the two of them, fewer people than have attended some of the hearings about Treasure. They included members of the Park City Planning Commission, City Hall staffers, people working with the Sweeneys and some people who live in nearby Old Town.

The people followed Sweeney as he climbed into the hills just west of Old Town close to the route of the Town Lift. He pointed out the places where buildings could be put up, spoke about the acreage that will be left undeveloped as part of the Treasure blueprints and described the family’s long-held contention that the tallest buildings in the development would be built within the interior instead of close to roads like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue.

Sweeney told the smaller of the two crowds that the interior of the project has been designed to resemble a "little New York" One of his brothers, Mike Sweeney, though, disagreed with the comment. Pat Sweeney mentioned on the smaller tour "a good brand" of hotelier is interested in Treasure, but he said the company wants its name to be guarded.

The larger of the two crowds gathered with Sweeney just after Park City voters cast ballots in an election that saw Treasure become one of the key campaign issues, with the candidates repeatedly saying they were displeased with the plans.

Approximately 25 people followed Sweeney on an early morning hike to the project site. Members of the Planning Commission, City Attorney Mark Harrington and defeated Park City Council candidate John Stafsholt were in the crowd. The Sweeney team used giant rods to illustrate the height of some of the shorter buildings. They tried to fly a balloon to show the height of the tallest ones, but the balloon exploded while it was being filled.

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The building heights have long been a key worry of Treasure opponents and the Planning Commission, with the critics saying the buildings will loom over Old Town. Computer-generated images submitted to the Planning Department show a Treasure building climbing to 13 stories and others that would be 12 stories tall and 11 stories tall.

The Sweeneys contend that the tallest buildings would be built below the grade of the hillside, meaning that the entire height would not be seen from most vantages. building taller buildings, the family says, more of the Treasure land will be kept as open space.

But Sweeney was unable to convince some of the people in the larger of the two crowds. Mary Wright, who lives in Park Meadows and was on the second tour, said the idea is "way too massive." She said in an interview the Sweeneys are contemplating "remolding the hillside."

"In fact, I’m a little more nervous than I ever was," Wright said after listening to Sweeney’s description on the tour.

The Sweeneys want Park City officials to approve a plan calling for 200 hotel rooms and 100 condominiums spread through approximately a dozen buildings. Commercial and convention space would also be constructed at the site under the Sweeney request. The family in the 1980s won an overall approval for Treasure and nearby developments that have since been built, but the Sweeneys must obtain another round of approvals before construction could start.

The Planning Commission will likely not discuss Treasure again until early in 2010. City Hall is awaiting an updated model of the project that the panel wants available as the talks continue.

The Sweeneys have thus far have not been able to turn public opinion toward Treasure, and there has been mounting opposition throughout this year, reaching a crescendo during the campaign.

One of the people who attended the second tour, though, did not take a position. Kevin King, a house designer who closely watches development trends in Park City, said in an interview that Treasure will be set against the mountainous backdrop and will not be "sticking out." The developers will "nestle the project down," King said.

"The majority of the people on the tour had already made up their mind and were not objectively looking at the facts or looking at the project from a neutral standpoint," King said.

In an interview after the two tours, Sweeney acknowledged that some Parkites will not accept the family’s longstanding rights to develop the land, saying they prefer the family abandon the project.

"There are people there who think it’s a perfectly reasonable option to walk away," Sweeney said. "That’s disheartening."