Editorial: Park City Council is better off simplifying Treasure bond
July 21, 2018
The simpler, the better.
The Park City Council would be wise to keep that in mind as it contemplates attaching $3 million to the Treasure bond ballot measure for an unrelated push to save 19 acres of farmland near the Park City Golf Club.
It's not that the effort to preserve the Snow Ranch Pastures acreage, spearheaded by Utah Open Lands, isn't worthy — it is. But by lumping money for that into the Treasure bond, the elected officials would risk muddying the waters on what will already be an expensive and hotly contested ballot measure.
That could have big ramifications. A major talking point among the city and bond supporters is that the ballot measure is the best crack residents will ever get to stop the Treasure development and preserve the Old Town hillside.
If that's true, why risk swaying even a small percentage of voters who may be put off, or confused, by the addition of the money for Snow Ranch Pastures?
Perhaps city officials believe the bond will meet little resistance when it appears on the ballot this fall. Passionate supporters who live in Old Town and are likely to vote for the measure regardless of whether the city tacks on money for another conservation deal have dominated the early stages of the debate.
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But as election season gears up, the city and bond advocates will have to press the issue with voters who are not as knowledgeable about Treasure and who have less of a personal stake in the bond's passage. The more difficult it is to articulate what, exactly, the money will be put toward and how the city reached the final price tag, the tougher it will be to convince residents who are uneasy about the prospect of a hefty tax increase.
Supporters of the measure may find it tricky to explain the reasoning behind linking an unrelated land deal with the Treasure bond. And it would undermine what is certain to be a critical talking point: that the elected officials did everything they could to lessen the taxpayer burden. That will likely include delaying projects on Main Street and road work in Old Town to get the bond into the low-$50 million range, but the argument becomes flimsier if the City Council turns around and tacks on $3 million for Snow Ranch Pastures.
If City Councilors are intent on assisting Utah Open Lands, it would be prudent to find another way to come up with the funding. If that's not possible, staying out of the effort to preserve the acreage altogether may be necessary.
After all, the elected officials have repeatedly said the Treasure bond is one of the city's top priorities. It follows, then, that they should make the decision voters will face this fall as straightforward as possible.
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