Bonanza Flats land deal would create a lasting legacy for Park City
August 9, 2016
The Park City Council should not hesitate to ask voters whether they are willing to support a bond to buy Bonanza Flats. And voters should be eager to support it.
Thursday night the council will decide whether to place a $25 million bond measure on November's ballot with the intent to preserve a significant portion of the untrammeled mountain meadows along Guardsman Pass into a conservation easement.
It is a lofty goal – both literally and figuratively, one that some hard-nosed realists say is out of reach in today's rarefied real estate market. And they may be right. The development potential for the 1,400 acre parcel could easily surpass the city's modest $25 million proposal.
The land fell into the hands of a group of lenders when the previous owner became a casualty of the recession. But Park City certainly won't be the only interested buyer when the parcel is put on the market. At least one developer has already expressed an interest in turning the land into a high-end resort akin to the exclusive Yellowstone Club in Montana.
At one time the city and a previous owner agreed to as many as 260 units in Bonanza Flats. Given today's real estate prices, even on the low end, a modest dwelling situated above Deer Valley and the resorts in Big Cottonwood Canyon could conceivably fetch $1 million bringing the value of a project there to at least $260 million. And, the potential property tax revenues from those units would be an enticing carrot for other jurisdictions – including Wasatch County where the land is actually located.
But just maybe, residents in Park City, and possibly others in Summit and Wasatch Counties are willing to make a sacrifice to preserve a swath of irreplaceable open space in their backyards.
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The alpine vistas of Bonanza Flats are just a short drive from the regular traffic jams on Bonanza Drive in Park City's growing business district but they are an inseparable part of our identity. They bolster our image as a mountain town, give us room to roam on the weekends and provide immeasurable habitat for the wildlife that we treasure.
If Parkites could rouse themselves to protest a trademark, they should also be ready raise the roof in favor of a bond to preserve Bonanza Flats.