Utah Open Lands short approximately $1.5 million as Snow Ranch deadline nears
Update: Utah Open Lands on Tuesday afternoon said the two branches of the Armstrong family on Monday granted the organization an extension on the deadline to secure the funding for the agreement. The extension runs until June 30.
Utah Open Lands early in the week acknowledged it must secure nearly $1.5 million by Sunday to hit a deadline regarding the efforts to protect acreage in Thaynes Canyon from development, a seven-digit figure that could prove difficult with just days left for the fundraising.
The not-for-profit organization said it has raised approximately $1,470,000 of the $3 million required to secure an instrument known as a conservation easement on the 20-acre Snow Ranch Pasture land. Under such an easement, the owner retains the land, but agrees to extinguish the development rights.
The agreement between Utah Open Lands and two branches of the Armstrong family is priced at $6 million. City Hall agreed to fund up to $3 million of the overall figure through revenues from a successful 2018 ballot measure that raised the bulk of the monies for the municipal government’s $64 million acquisition of Treasure for conservation purposes.
The pledge of up to $3 million from City Hall covers 50 percent of the cost attached to the deal between Utah Open Lands and the two branches of the Armstrong family, leaving the organization to raise the remaining $3 million.
Utah Open Lands has mounted a months-long fundraising campaign focused on Snow Ranch Pasture and has thus far been unable to raise its share. The organization and the two branches of the Armstrong family set an original deadline of Dec. 15. Utah Open Lands did not raise the funds by then and negotiated an extension until Sunday.
Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, conceded the efforts “are still substantially far away.” Fisher said the organization has requested another extension, until June 30, last weekend. The sides had not agreed to the second extension by Monday.
“We’re trying to pull out all the stops,” she said
Fisher said potential contributors want more time to consider assisting the efforts. She said unidentified individuals and foundations are weighing “substantial contributions.” The overwhelming approval of the ballot measure in 2018 remains an important argument as the fundraising continues, she said.
“We feel there was a huge show of support by the community,” she said.
The approximately $1,470,000 that has been raised is roughly the same sum as Utah Open Lands reported having brought in by late December, signaling there was a slowdown in the fundraising through the busiest stretch of the ski season.
Fisher said there is a possibility Utah Open Lands could consider requesting additional funds from City Hall, but that has not yet been decided. Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council would need to debate a request for additional monies.
Although the elected officials support the Snow Ranch Pasture efforts, increasing the taxpayer contribution to more than 50 percent of the overall cost could test the level of backing since the land would not come under municipal ownership. It is not clear when Utah Open Lands would decide whether to approach City Hall for assistance if the funds are not raised through other sources.
Fisher has previously said Utah Open Lands after Election Day needed to underscore its fundraising message to reflect that the ballot measure in 2018 did not provide all the monies needed for Snow Ranch Pasture, Some in the community did not realize the ballot measure lacked full funding for the agreement, she has said.
Snow Ranch Pasture, located off Thaynes Canyon Drive close to the Park City Golf Club, is sought for the scenic views toward Park City Mountain Resort and habitat for wildlife like sandhill cranes and elk. Utah Open Lands has calculated up to 48 houses are possible on the acreage should the land not be set aside from development.
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Utah’s legislative general session is set to end on Friday, and if history is any indicator, there will be a flurry of floor amendments and last-minute changes for county officials to monitor.