Treasure opposition: keep Park City hillside preserved
December 8, 2017
A prominent figure in the Treasure opposition group said the best outcome of the late-hour negotiations between City Hall and the development partnership would be the preservation of the hillside land as open space.
It would be a scenario the critics of the project have long desired but one that seemed highly unlikely until it was acknowledged on Wednesday that Park City officials and the Treasure side have been engaged in closed-door talks about an unspecified agreement regarding the project.
The Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition has led the opposition to the development proposal, forming in response to the discussions about the project, sending representatives to testify at Park City Planning Commission meetings over the years and retaining a law firm to press Treasure issues.
Brian Van Hecke, one of the founders of the group and an Empire Avenue resident, said in an interview the desired result of the negotiations is the preservation of the entire property as open space. The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, would "receive a fair return on their investment that honors their property rights, their true property rights."
The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured development rights on the Treasure land and nearby parcels. The extent of the development rights, though, has been one of the disputed topics in the years of the talks about the proposal. The partnership sees the 1980s approval as allowing a project of upward of 1 million square feet while the opposition claims the approval contemplated a far smaller project. The land is along the route of the Town Lift and located off streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue
"We always hoped that something could be worked out so all parties involved realize a win-win situation," Van Hecke said.
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The Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, which often goes by the acronym THINC, is not involved in the closed-door negotiations. The group was not informed of the talks until Mayor Jack Thomas during a Wednesday meeting of the Planning Commission acknowledged there have been discussions.
Van Hecke said he supports a solution that involves "zero density on Treasure Hill." He declined to discuss the prospects of City Hall negotiating an agreement with the Treasure side involving a municipal program that allows some of the Treasure development rights to be moved to another location.
The acknowledgment on Wednesday that negotiations are underway surprised the crowd in the Park City Council chambers for the Planning Commission meeting. It was anticipated to be an important meeting about Treasure when the Planning Commission could signal how it may vote. The Planning Commission has deep-rooted concerns about Treasure issues like traffic, the size of the buildings and the excavation that would be required for the project. The panel, though, delayed the discussions about a vote to give the sides more time for the negotiations.
Van Hecke said it seemed the Planning Commission appears to be preparing for a vote against Treasure it the panel ultimately casts one. He said "facts will speak for themselves that we have raised throughout the process."
"Our preference would have been to allow the process to play out," Van Hecke also said. "Because of all the time and energy and effort."