Treasure talks become exhaustive as forced vote still possible | ParkRecord.com

Treasure talks become exhaustive as forced vote still possible

Planning Commission continues to address concerns about traffic

Anne Laurent, the Park City community development director, and Mike Sweeney, who is part of the Treasure partnership, study an image created by the partnership during a Park City Planning Commission meeting about Treasure on Wednesday night. The Planning Commission held a lengthy discussion about topics like traffic and intends to continue the long-running talks in October.

The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday held a grueling discussion about the Treasure development proposal and appears to continue to have broad concerns about the project even as the sides in the long-running talks are likely fast approaching the extraordinary scenario of Treasure invoking a state law that will force a vote after more than a decade of on-and-off talks.

The Planning Commission and Treasure have held a series of lengthy meetings over the years, but the discussion on Wednesday seemed to be more difficult than many others as the panel and the developers engaged in another back-and-forth talk about topics like traffic. The traffic Treasure is anticipated to attract has been one of the crucial issues throughout the discussions about the project. It is likely the exhausting nature of the meeting on Wednesday stems from the panel's desire to finish its review and be prepared to cast a vote if it is forced to do so in coming months.

The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, wants to win an approval to build approximately 1 million square feet of development on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall approval for development on the Treasure land and nearby parcels, but the partnership must secure another permit before the project can proceed.

The discussions about the current Treasure proposal date to 2004 with a series of starts and stops as the project was redesigned and ultimately unsuccessful discussions were held about the possibility of City Hall acquiring the land in a conservation deal. The Treasure side in the spring indicated it was considering forcing a vote, and the prospects of the partnership invoking the state law has loomed over the discussions since.

In an interview after the meeting on Wednesday, Pat Sweeney, who represents his family in the discussions, outlined the partnership's desired schedule through the fall. He said Treasure will be on the agenda of a Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 11. He wants the project on the agenda of the panel's subsequent meeting, slated for Oct. 25. The partnership wants a vote on Nov. 8. However, Sweeney said, the Treasure side will not invoke its right to force a vote until at least Nov. 8. The Planning Commission would have 45 days to cast a vote once the formal request is made, potentially putting a decision in late December.

The timeline Sweeney outlined on Wednesday pushes back the schedule from an earlier version that called for a vote no later than Oct. 25. By late August, though, the partnership had said a vote on either Oct. 25 or Nov. 8 would be acceptable.

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The meeting on Wednesday was arduous from the outset as the sides quickly focused on traffic issues. Drivers headed to and from Treasure are expected to heavily use streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue. There has been a large amount of discussion about the effects on the roads themselves as well as intersections close to the Treasure land. The partnership argues the roads can adequately accommodate the Treasure-related traffic in combination with a project transportation plan involving a people mover known as a cabriolet and pedestrian upgrades. Treasure critics, though, argue the traffic will overwhelm neighborhood roads.

One concept discussed recently and broached on Wednesday envisions turning Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue into one-way streets, a change in traffic patterns that would be meant to reduce drivers on both of the streets. The Park City engineer, Matt Cassel, told the Planning Commission staffers do not support the concept. He explained such a scenario would impact traffic in the vicinity of Park City Mountain Resort and vehicle speeds tend to increase on one-way streets. Nicole Deforge, an attorney representing a Treasure opposition group called the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, also questioned the idea for one-way streets, saying during a hearing on Wednesday it could cause numerous problems like increasing traffic on both of the streets.

The Planning Commissioners also addressed a study of intersections close to the Treasure land that was conducted over the Presidents Day weekend. Laura Suesser, a Planning Commissioner, noted the numbers were gathered on a blackout date of some popular season passes to Park City Mountain Resort, meaning there would be less traffic headed to the resort. In her testimony, Deforge said the study assumes the roads function already and it is based on "inaccurate, idealized conditions."

The Planning Commission hearing on Wednesday lasted approximately 50 minutes as speakers covered traffic, environmental concerns and other issues. John Stafsholt, an Old Town resident and Treasure critic, told the Planning Commission one-way streets would lead to impacts rather than alleviating traffic. He wondered what entity would run a cabriolet and how much it may cost, adding that the people mover would not be good for the neighborhood.

Another speaker, Park City resident and Lowell Avenue homeowner Michael Kelly, said he is not opposed to a project on the Treasure land, but one must be "reasonable in size." He said, though, the Treasure construction will be "miserable" for people nearby.