Treasure buyout pegged at nearly $50 million |

Treasure buyout pegged at nearly $50 million

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A conservation deal that would altogether eliminate the prospects of development on the Sweeney family’s prized Treasure land overlooking Old Town could cost City Hall nearly $50 million, a dollar figure that would top the combined value of the three conservation bonds Park City voters have passed since the late 1990s.

The Treasure figure — $48 million — was made public at an open house on Tuesday night. The number had been closely guarded by City Hall and the Sweeney family until people arrived at the event. The dollar figure that would be attached to a conservation deal encompassing all of the family’s longstanding development rights at the site had been the most anticipated detail yet to emerge from City Hall-Sweeney family negotiations.

Meanwhile, the two sides also have been negotiating another option — less costly — that would reduce the size of the Treasure development but not eliminate the project.

Under that scenario, City Hall could pay the family $15 million in exchange for the Sweeneys foregoing 25 percent of the development. The scenario also envisions 100,000 square feet of the development rights at Treasure being shifted to a location just uphill from the Park City Mountain Resort base area.

The option would keep a chunk of development at the Treasure site as well. The development left at the site could entail 213,000 square feet of residential and commercial space plus an undetermined amount of square footage of space needed for the day-to-day operations of a hotel, sometimes referred to as the ‘back of house.’

The Treasure development proposal that stalled more than a year ago during talks with the Planning Commission totaled 1 million square feet. Some members of the Planning Commission and people who live in Old Town have deep-rooted concerns about issues like the amount of traffic the project is expected to attract and the size of the buildings that could be put up at Treasure.

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City Hall and the Sweeneys caution that the two figures are being used in the negotiations, but they might not be the final dollar amounts. City Hall has not made the Sweeneys an offer on either option. But the unveiling of the figures on Tuesday night marks an important step as City Hall determines whether there will be public support for a deal. Either of the options would require City Hall to ask Parkites to approve a ballot measure increasing property taxes through a conservation bond to raise the monies needed to fund a deal.

According to City Hall’s calculations, a $50 million bond would cost someone with a property classified as a primary residence an additional $43 per $100,000 of assessed value annually for 15 years. Someone who owns a primary residence assessed at $500,000 would pay another $215 per year. The cost would be approximately double for people who own vacation homes or commercial properties.

A $15 million bond would cost another $13 per $100,000 of assessed value for someone who owns a property classified as a primary residence, or an additional $65 per year on a $500,000 property. The figure would nearly double for owners of vacation homes or commercial properties.

Park City voters since the late 1990s have approved three conservation bonds totaling $40 million. Those ballot measures were not tied to an individual deal like one to fund a Treasure deal would be. City Hall has spent the $40 million.

"If you eliminate half the density, you’re automatically eliminating half the traffic problem," said Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson, one of City Hall’s negotiators.

Simpson said people at the open house told her they supported the $15 million option, but there was resistance to a $48 million deal.

Mike Sweeney, one of the family’s representatives in the negotiations with City Hall, said there is a "higher probability" of a $15 million bond passing than one valued at nearly $50 million.

"I think you’re getting more for your money," he said about the lesser amount.

He added that the development that would be built under the $15 million scenario would honor an earlier agreement between the Sweeney family and Park City Mountain Resort stemming from the construction of the Town Lift years ago.

The people at the open house spent time talking to City Hall representatives and members of the Sweeney family as they studied a series of maps and charts set up in the foyer of the Eccles Center. Eighty-eight people put their name on a sign-in sheet, but the attendance was likely higher.

Some of the people at the open house included:

  • John Plunkett, who lives in Old Town and said he would support the option involving the $15 million.

    "It seemed a reasonable trade-off," Plunkett said.

    He said the project that would remain at the Treasure site must be designed well and said he wanted its architecture to be reminiscent of Park City’s mining past.

  • Marianne Cone, who lives in Old Town and said she would back the $15 million option.

    "It doesn’t make sense to get rid of the whole thing," she said, adding, "$48 million does not make sense to me."

  • Kyra Parkhurst, who lives on Empire Avenue close to the Treasure site and said she would support the more expensive option.

    "Make it go away because it doesn’t fit in that location," Parkhurst, a longtime Treasure critic, said, mentioning concerns about traffic, construction and zoning.

    She acknowledged, though, other Parkites might be more apt to support the option with the lower price.