If Treasure vote occurs, what happens next?
Park City leaders on Wednesday evening added even more drama to the long-running discussions about Treasure when it was announced that a late-hour effort is underway to reach some sort of deal, perhaps a conservation agreement, involving the land.
Mayor Jack Thomas and Park City Councilor Andy Beerman, who is the mayor-elect, appeared before the Park City Planning Commission to inform the panel that talks have been underway privately.
It is not known whether an agreement will be reached, but City Hall will continue to consider Treasure as if a vote is fast approaching, perhaps by the end of the year if an accord is not finalized. A Park City Planning Commission vote on Treasure would be the most notable development decision made at City Hall since the project now known as Empire Pass was approved nearly 20 years ago.
But a Treasure vote by the Planning Commission would almost certainly not end the talks about the project, which is proposed on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. A vote instead would be expected to trigger an unorthodox appeal process.
The Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, would be expected to appeal any vote against the project. The opposition, meanwhile, would likely appeal should the Planning Commission approve Treasure. A vote would follow more than a decade of on-and-off talks between the Treasure side and various Planning Commission rosters.
An appeal of a Planning Commission vote like the one that would be cast regarding Treasure would normally be put before the Park City Council. But more than seven years ago, in the spring of 2010, the City Councilors in office at that time made a major move that was meant to break what was already a logjam as the Planning Commission and the Treasure partnership could not reach an agreement on various aspects of the project. The City Councilors surrendered their authority to act as the appeal body in exchange for the opportunity to attempt to reach a separate deal involving the land – a conservation agreement or a smaller, reworked project. The talks then do not appear to be linked to the discussions the sides on Wednesday acknowledged are underway.
The previous negotiations between the elected officials and the Treasure partnership were ultimately unsuccessful. It was said publicly there was a vast disagreement about prices for the land. By entering the negotiations at that time, though, the City Council removed itself from a role in any appeal. The elected officials could not attempt to negotiate an agreement while also retaining the role in an appeal since serving in both capacities would jeopardize their ability to fairly hear an appeal. The decision by the City Council of 2010 is binding, meaning that the current slate of elected officials would not participate in an appeal if the negotiations are unsuccessful and the Planning Commission casts a vote.
Instead, the City Council at that time crafted an appeal process that relies on a three-person panel. The process was not designed exclusively for Treasure, but the project was seen as spurring the move by the municipal government. Any Treasure appeal would be put to a three-person panel that would be seated after an appeal is filed.
If the Planning Commission casts a vote, someone wishing to appeal the decision must do so quickly. An appeal is required to be filed within 10 calendar days of the vote. Someone also must have standing to file an appeal. City Hall describes someone with standing as the owner of the property, someone who has testified or provided written comment about a matter or the owner of a property within 300 feet of the site.
In the case of Treasure, the City Hall definition of standing ensures a broad range of people have the right to file an appeal. Numerous people have testified at Planning Commission meetings or written letters to City Hall over the course of the discussions, and there are many properties that are 300 feet away or closer along streets like Lowell Avenue and Empire Avenue.
If an appeal is filed, the three-person panel would be seated. The City Council holds the power to appoint the members. The municipal Land Management Code, which details City Hall’s development rules, outlines that priority will be given to people who live in Park City or the Park City area, have at least five years of experience in a similar adjudicative role and have a degree in planning or law. They need to have the ability to delve into complex arguments and conduct hearings in an orderly and impartial fashion.
Meetings of an appeal panel would be held in public and would be publicly noticed in the same fashion as meetings of other municipal boards and commissions like the Planning Commission. The panel would hold the authority the City Council would normally wield in an appeal, and it would use the procedures the elected officials would use.
It is not clear what sort of timeline would be followed beyond the 10 calendar days after a vote during which an appeal must be filed. The Land Management Code describes that the date would be set after talks between City Hall officials and the side that requests an appeal.
It is likely a Treasure appeal would be a lengthier process than others since a three-person panel would need to be seated before the appeal could be heard. A Treasure appeal would also be more grueling than others since it is a more complex project, highlighted by the difficulties the Planning Commission itself has encountered during its review.
The Planning Commission has struggled with a variety of Treasure topics, including traffic, the size of the proposed buildings and the excavation that would be required.
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Park City officials are expected to present information about upcoming work on the Treasure acreage designed to guard against a wildfire, as well as a series of other City Hall projects and programs, at an open house that is scheduled next week.