Guest editorial: Treasure bond includes not-so-hidden costs
Let me start out by saying I’m an avid hiker and enjoy Park City’s open lands as much as anyone. I’m not inherently opposed to saving open space and voted to preserve Bonanza Flats via a $38 million bond approved last year. That said, I feel it is my community responsibility to ensure everyone understands the costs and impact associated with the continued pursuit of open lands as Park City Municipal Corp. (PCMC) funded projects.
The original plan was to purchase the 100 acres known as Treasure Hill from the owners for a negotiated price of $64 million. PCMC was required to provide a down payment of $6 million that was funded by redirecting funds targeted to build a Main Street Plaza at the top of Main. This plaza was designed to increased foot traffic at the top of Main benefiting the shops and restaurants located there. The remaining $58 million was to be funded by a bond to be voted on by residents in November. So how did we reduce the bond amount from $58 million to $48 million while adding a contribution to another land deal in Thaynes Canyon called Armstrong/Snow Ranch Pasture? To date, cutbacks according to City Hall include: canceled plans for a new public utilities building, canceled Old Town reconstruction projects, delay of storm water improvements, canceled sidewalk repairs and reallocation of reserves and proceeds from other sources. When did public land use priorities begin to trump essential services such as water and infrastructure improvements?
What cost do we pay for this incremental land? First and most obvious is the impact on property taxes. Average primary homeowners will pay an additional $194 per year and secondary homeowners will pay $353 per year. These increases will be assessed for 15 years. The city is rightfully concerned with affordable housing and making Park City an affordable place to live, but these taxes, while not egregious to the more affluent citizens of our community, hit hard the very citizens these initiatives target. Lower income homeowners in our community are the least able to absorb these increases.
Another cost is the lost revenue opportunity associated with the reduction/loss of new development, which would expand our tax base and generate new and incremental tax revenues for the city. These revenues could be used to expand services and improve lifestyle for all citizens of our community. Development and expansion of our city has contributed significantly to the lifestyle we all enjoy today. Why are we rabidly against future development? I agree development should be reviewed and evaluated for the potential impact on the community at large but it seems that wealthy homeowners in Upper Old Town have driven this anti-development campaign to benefits their own “ends” vs. that of the entire Park City community.
Lastly, the purchase of land for open space conservation has other hidden costs, which have not been factored. When the city buys private land for public use, we assume “stewardship” of these lands. This stewardship includes costs similar to those we assumed with Bonanza Flats which are infrastructure projects like trailhead improvement, new bathrooms and Park City Police and emergency services required to monitor and respond to incidents on these lands. These costs are not included in the $48 million bond proposed and will certainly come at the costs of other projects and services.
So in conclusion, I ask all fellow residents to carefully consider the total impact of this bond and ask yourselves … do you want our city officials to be the new “Developers” of open space, encouraging everyone with a parcel of land to sell, to come hat in hand to the city for the best deal? If not, vote “No” on the open space bond.
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Skier, mountaineer, environmental activist and Park City resident Caroline Gleich writes that Andy Beerman’s commitment to the climate is vital to Park City’s future.