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Treasure: new name, new talks

The Sweeney family is preparing to press forward with Treasure, the disputed development that the family wants to build on a prominent hillside overlooking Old Town.

The Sweeneys recently filed revamped plans with City Hall in anticipation of another round of talks between the family and the city’s Planning Commission. The project, which had previously been known as Treasure Hill, sparked widespread concern among people who live close by, and it is expected the upcoming discussions will resemble those that stalled in 2006.

The Treasure blueprints contemplate about 200 hotel rooms and 100 condominiums spread between 12 buildings on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort on the western edge of Old Town, close to the Town Lift. Some commercial square footage and work force housing are in the plans as well, as is a package of skiing upgrades close to the project’s site.

Computer-generated images of Treasure show buildings close to residential streets, with Empire Avenue and Lowell Avenue the closest.

"I’m real happy. It’s been a long time. I think we’ve worked really hard, come up with a great solution," said Pat Sweeney, who represents his family and has led the Treasure efforts before the Planning Commission.

Treasure is a key part of an overall approval the Sweeneys won from City Hall in the 1980s, when officials agreed to allow the family to develop pieces of its land close to where the Town Lift was later built. The original approval also included what became the Town Lift Plaza, the Caledonian building and three houses. Most of the land regulated by the 1980s approval will remain undeveloped, with Sweeney saying 97 percent of the acreage, including much of the Old Town-facing hillside, will be left open.

The largest of the Treasure buildings would be among the most prominent in Old Town, and the project would be one of the city’s largest lodging properties. It would occupy a sought-after location on the slopes of PCMR close to the shopping, dining and entertainment attractions on Main Street.

The Planning Commission recently received a package of information about Treasure, including previous City Hall staff reports, meeting minutes and details about the 1980s approval. Katie Cattan, the City Hall planner assigned to Treasure Hill, expects to address the Planning Commission in January, starting what the Sweeneys hope is a final round of meetings prior to the panel casting a vote.

The upcoming discussions will likely draw intense interest from people who live on streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue. Old Town residents from other streets are also expected to closely monitor the Planning Commission.

In earlier meetings, the neighbors were incensed that City Hall was considering the development two decades after the initial approval. They argued the neighborhood had changed dramatically since then. The Treasure development, as approved in the 1980s, they said, was inappropriate nowadays. They were worried that the project would attract too much traffic to the neighborhood, the construction would be unbearable and the hillside is best left as it is, among other complaints.

The Sweeneys, however, countered that the Treasure plans meet the earlier approval and include lots of measures to protect the neighborhood, including concepts meant to discourage people from driving to Treasure and road upgrades in anticipation of traffic driving to and from the project.

"I’m convinced it’s the best solution, given the approval we were granted 25 years ago," Sweeney said.

He said the family will not appease each of the critics, saying some do not want the land developed. There was brief talk of City Hall negotiating a deal with the Sweeneys to buy the land to preserve as open space, but that idea did not advance.

Sweeney said he hopes the Planning Commission is ready to cast a vote as early as mid-2009. Turnover on the panel, however, might delay a vote as newer Planning Commissioners spend time learning about Treasure, he said.

Sweeney said a groundbreaking for Treasure would not occur until at least two years after a Planning Commission approval. The timeline would allow the Sweeney side to finalize the designs and construction plans.

"I, personally, am in love with the concept," Sweeney said.


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