Treasure buyout opinions: ‘not one penny’ to ‘whatever it takes’ |

Treasure buyout opinions: ‘not one penny’ to ‘whatever it takes’

However much money it takes.

Not even a cent.

Those are the amounts some people in Park City are willing to spend to preserve the Sweeney family’s Treasure acreage overlooking Old Town as open space. And the wide range will likely make it difficult for City Hall to appease the various camps that Parkites are settling into as negotiations between Park City officials and the Sweeney family enter another stage.

The two sides on Tuesday evening held the second of two open houses to unveil a series of options under discussion between the Treasure negotiators. The options call for varying degrees of development on the Treasure land, from having the family continue with its current application to City Hall buying all the development rights at the site, thus preserving the land. Other options call for a combination of development and conservation purchases on the land, situated along the route of the Town Lift and close to streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue.

People at the Tuesday gathering, which drew more than 100 people to the Eccles Center lobby, held divergent views of the talks and whether it would be worthwhile for City Hall to pursue a conservation deal. Depending on the breadth of a conservation deal, a purchase is expected to be the most expensive in City Hall’s long-running open space program. There are suggestions that the price tag attached to a complete buyout of the development rights could soar into nine digits.

The crowd studied numerous displays covering the Treasure history, which dates back more than 20 years, and looking over a model of the project that has become a key visual aid as the talks about the project have continued to unfold. Sweeney family representatives and City Hall officials, including the Treasure negotiating team of Mayor Dana Williams and Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson, answered questions and described their ideas.

If a conservation agreement is reached between the two sides, City Hall would be expected to ask Park City voters to approve a ballot measure to raise the money that will be needed. The amount would be set during the negotiations, and the two sides have been hesitant to discuss dollar figures publicly.

In interviews during the open houses, several Park City residents provided clues into the camps that might form should City Hall ask voters to approve a high-dollar conservation bond tied to Treasure.

Thea Leonard, who lives in Old Town, sees support for a ballot measure, saying that she would vote in favor of "whatever it takes to keep it open." Leonard owns property inside the city, meaning that her property taxes would increase if a bond is approved someday.

"What we sell in Park City is clean air, big trees, open space," she said, adding, "You gotta pay for what you want . . . It’s a valuable commodity, open space."

Leonard said Park City does not need a development like Treasure and she worries about the effects a project would have on trails on the land.

Meanwhile, Tom Hurd, who lives in Thaynes Canyon and has long trumpeted his fiscal conservatism, prefers City Hall not put a ballot measure to voters to raise funds for a Treasure deal.

"Not one penny. Just exactly that. Not one penny," Hurd said. "As far as I am concerned, I’m not willing to finance it."

Hurd argued Park City voters have already overextended themselves by approving a series of ballot measures to fund conservation purchases, build the Park City Ice Arena and make pedestrian and bicyclist routes.

A Treasure ballot measure would be expected to be tightly worded for Treasure as opposed to the broad language of the previous ones, which essentially allowed City Hall to pursue conservation purchases throughout Park City and along the entryways.

"The rest of Park City will see this as an Old Town problem. And they should," Hurd said, contending that Park City residents are "worn out with the bonding" and the tight wording would concern some voters.

Simpson said the negotiations could last into the fall before a price tag is agreed to between the two sides. If that is the case, it is not clear whether a ballot measure would be put to voters on Election Day. She said the City Hall negotiators and the Sweeney side have not yet started focusing on dollar figures.

She has heard from people with divergent views within the same family. A husband and wife approached her during the first open house, with the husband willing to pay a high dollar amount for a conservation deal and the wife indicating she is hesitant, Simpson said.

"I think there’s a range, and there’s a huge range, in what people are willing to pay," Simpson said.

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