Utah Open Lands, short $1 million-plus, seeks City Hall help on deal
Utah Open Lands, short approximately $1.1 million with just days left to finalize a $6 million conservation agreement in Thaynes Canyon, has requested financial assistance from City Hall, asking that the municipal government put additional monies toward the deal above the $3 million already pledged by Park City voters.
It is a dramatic move that will be put to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council on Thursday, just three days before a June 30 deadline. Utah Open Lands wants City Hall to contribute at least $550,000 to the efforts. The sum amounts to approximately half of the remaining funds that are needed to reach the $6 million. Another $550,000 would put the dollar figure from Park City taxpayers at $3,550,000, or nearly 60 percent of the overall cost.
Utah Open Lands reached an agreement with two branches of the Armstrong family to secure an instrument known as a conservation easement on the 19-acre Snow Ranch Pasture off Thaynes Canyon Drive and Three Kings Drive close to the Park City Golf Club. Under a conservation easement, the land remains with the owner with the development rights stripped from the acreage.
Utah Open Lands has mounted a broad fundraising campaign for the $3 million stake not covered by Park City, but it was not able to bring in the full amount. The June 30 deadline is the second extension after an initial deadline of Dec. 15. It seemed possible throughout the fundraising Utah Open Lands would eventually approach City Hall for additional assistance if it was unable to cover the $3 million. Park City voters in November approved up to $3 million toward Snow Ranch Pasture as part of a $48 million ballot measure that raised most of the funds for the acquisition of the Treasure land in a conservation deal.
Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, said in an interview the organization has sought funds for the agreement from a wide range of sources, including individuals, foundations and the County Courthouse without successfully raising the full $3 million. The failure to close the gap led the organization to City Hall, she said, noting that rank-and-file Parkites have suggested Utah Open Lands approach the municipal government for additional monies.
“It would be a shame not to ask every possible source, so that is what we are doing,” Fisher said.
The mayor and City Council on Thursday are scheduled to debate the request. City Hall staffers issued a report in support of additional financial assistance for the agreement.
The report outlines a funding strategy for the additional $550,000 that relies on the $48 million ballot measure approved in 2018, saying the interest rates, bond premium and principal “outperformed financial estimates.” City Hall borrowed $44 million for the acquisition of Treasure, rather than the projected $45 million, against the $48 million approved by voters, the report says. The report indicates “property taxpayers are paying less than estimated when they voted to protect Treasure Hill” and Snow Ranch Pasture, saying “an additional $1 million in bond authorization remains available to draw upon.”
Utah Open Lands and Park City officials want to set aside the land from development for its scenic value and wildlife habitat. Utah Open Lands has said up to 48 houses are possible if the acreage is not protected.
The City Council is scheduled to consider the additional contribution at a meeting on Thursday starting at 6 p.m. at the Marsac Building. A hearing and vote are scheduled.
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