Utah Open Lands secures more time for Snow Ranch Pasture fundraising
Election Day was already six-plus weeks ago, and the attention of Park City has turned to the possibility of another Winter Olympics in the state and the early-season snow.
Voters in Park City on Election Day overwhelmingly approved a $48 million ballot measure that will provide most of the funding for the planned $64 million acquisition of the Treasure acreage in a conservation deal.
Park City leaders also pledged up to $3 million of the funds to an unrelated conservation deal in Thaynes Canyon, known as Snow Ranch Pasture. Utah Open Lands, a not-for-profit organization, negotiated a $6 million agreement with two branches of the Armstrong family to set aside from development the 20-acre Snow Ranch Pasture through an instrument called a conservation easement. A landowner retains the acreage under a conservation easement but agrees to extinguish the development rights.
A City Hall contribution of $3 million would cover 50 percent of the overall cost of the Utah Open Lands agreement for Snow Ranch Pasture. Utah Open Lands continues a fundraising effort for the $3 million that was not a part of the ballot measure.
The organization’s agreement with the two branches of the Armstrong family set a deadline of Dec. 15. Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, this week acknowledged the funds were not raised by the deadline. She said Utah Open Lands and the landowner negotiated an extension until March 31, a period that includes the holidays and the busiest stretch of the ski season. She said another extension is currently not contemplated.
Fisher said the organization has raised $1.5 million of the $3 million needed to cover the balance of the agreement. Of that $1.5 million, between $1.1 million and $1.2 million came from foundations, meaning the funds raised from individual or business contributions amount to a range of $300,000 to $400,000. Fisher said Utah Open Lands hopes individual and business contributions attract additional interest from foundations.
“I am the eternal optimist,” Fisher said, noting the broad support of the ballot measure and adding, “That gives me confidence that as we turn the calendar to the new year, we’ll be able to get that same kind of support.”
She said the City Hall agreement to acquire Treasure in a conservation deal received lots more publicity than the Utah Open Lands efforts for Snow Ranch Pasture. And, since Election Day, the organization has needed to underscore its fundraising message to reflect that the ballot measure did not provide the full amount of funding for Snow Ranch Pasture, Fisher said.
“They were not as aware that there would still be additional dollars to be raised,” she said.
Snow Ranch Pasture is located off Thaynes Canyon Drive close to the Park City Golf Club. Utah Open Lands in the summer reached the agreement and Park City leaders later opted to put up to $3 million from the ballot measure toward Snow Ranch Pasture. The inclusion of funds for Snow Ranch Pasture was seen as a strategic move to broaden support for a ballot measure that was initially designed exclusively for Treasure.
The land is sought for its scenic views toward Park City Mountain Resort and wildlife habitat. Utah Open Lands has said sandhill cranes and a herd of elk have been seen on the land. It is also rare in recent years for a parcel within Park City as large as Snow Ranch Pasture to be available in a conservation agreement.
The underlying zoning of most of Snow Ranch Pasture would allow three lots on each acre, leaving the possibility of significant development should Utah Open Lands not complete the agreement. Utah Open Lands has calculated up to 48 houses are possible on the acreage.
Utah Open Lands says a development of that size would lead to increased traffic and the loss of the habitat for wildlife. Fisher said the conservation easement, which provides tax benefits to the owner, is valued at more than $16 million. She said the two branches of the Armstrong family contributed heavily to the agreement by pricing the deal at $6 million rather than a figure closer to the more than $16 million value.
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