Guest editorial: Former Park City Planning Commissioner says bond is best solution to Treasure problem
Former Park City Planning Commissioner
Let me explain why you should vote for the Park City open space bond.
As background, the Park City Planning Commission is the final deciding body for the Treasure Hill development. I was a member of the Planning Commission for nearly 10 years and was the Chairperson when the project came the closest it ever had to approval. Treasure Hill developers sought to build approximately 1 million square feet of high-rise hotel and commercial space beneath the Town Lift. The process spanned decades and included countless public meetings, comprehensive reports, models, studies, and reams of other evidence. The project often kept me awake at night. It was — and if this bond fails, will be — the largest and most negatively impactful development I ever witnessed while on the Commission.
Here is why the bond is the best solution. The developer had legally vested rights to build under Utah law and the Master Plan approved in 1985. Litigating that issue was futile, expensive, and the Utah courts might have awarded even more density. The Commission could not “stop” the project on any grounds: environmental, safety, geotechnical, excavation, blasting, traffic, eminent domain, etc. All of these issues were looked at in great detail over many years. This open space bond is truly the only way to stop it.
I want to correct some misunderstandings.
1. We are not paying $64 million for only 10 acres of land: The bond extinguishes density from 123 acres, which includes the 10 acre building site. One acre of land with vested rights to high-rise hotels/condos (Treasure) has a much higher value than one acre of vacant land. A conventional 25-by-75-foot lot in Old Town goes for roughly $1 million, and that’s without vested high-rise density, and the average price per square foot for new construction in Old Town is over $750. You can do the math to see that $64 million is well below market value.
2. Social equity and governmental spending. First, it seems patently inequitable to let a single rich developer amass even more wealth while subjecting everyone else (rich and poor) to enormous negative impacts. Additionally, I would personally feel extreme social imbalance if this bond fails, construction begins, and thousands of workers get bused in and out of town every morning and evening — which is part of the Treasure construction plan — all so the top 1 percent can stay in another 5-star hotel and buy more condos.
Secondly, city spending and budgets are separate issues from this bond. If the bond fails, city spending may or may not change, but we’ll have to suffer through massive construction (think Prospector Avenue right now), more traffic, more dump trucks, and more questions about whether living here is still the right choice for our families.
3. We can and should pay for the Treasure bond and a future school bond. Open space is precisely the thing I want my two children to enjoy, along with a good education. Our kids should live in a town with good schools and less pollution, traffic, and socially imbalanced overdevelopment. Plus, bonds are temporary, and other bonds are retiring soon, relieving much of the long-term financial impact. The school district boundaries are also broader than city limits, so the tax burden of a potential future school bond could be far less per capita depending on the bond amount. Lastly, killing the Treasure bond and all the known impacts it avoids based on speculative guesses about the unknown burden a potential school bond may have is too risky.
Vote FOR the open space bond!