Tom Clyde: Christmas miracles
We just saw a couple of Christmas miracles.
On Tuesday, the voters in Alabama refused to elect the child molester to the US Senate. President Trump and his bomb-thrower Steve Bannon had both been campaigning aggressively for the credibly accused child molester, and the voters said, “no thanks.” It was a very narrow victory for the Democrat, and it’s probably wrong to read much into it beyond a rejection of the deeply problematic Republican. Groping teenage girls at the mall was only one of many flaws. But a win is a win, and by a margin of about 1 percent, Alabama elected a Democrat.
Does this mark a rejection of the current middle school lunchroom state of politics? Probably not, but maybe it has put a floor under just how low things can go. We, the people, have drawn a line and by a margin of 1%, we have agreed that credibly accused child molesters should not be elected to the Senate. It’s a start.
On the local front, we have another Christmas miracle of equally un-assayed value. The City announced a grand plan to reduce the Treasure project by half, reconfigure the density, and possibly bring this generational nightmare to a conclusion. Under the deal, which still sounds less than finalized, the City would pay $6 million now, and then put $24 million on its tab for a bond election next November. If the bond passes, the new project design goes into effect. If the voters don’t approve, the project shrinks by 10 percent to reflect the down payment, and goes ahead—on terms that would have to be approved by the planning commission.
The new project layout has 18 single-family homes scattered around the hillside, which, ironically, was exactly the result the 1986 approval was trying to avoid by clustering the density in Creole Gulch. But the total number of homes is greatly reduced from the 1980’s potential.
Then there is a boutique hotel of 100,000 “net square feet.” “Net” square footage is the source of most of the dispute. Net means the hotel rooms, and excludes the necessary hallways, stairwells, lobbies, mechanical spaces, and other support spaces. But the question remains how much convention and restaurant space might be added. I have to assume that gets defined so we don’t just repeat the process we’ve been in for 35 years.
And then there is a background discussion of another auditorium for the Park City Institute, which apparently had a significant role in brokering this deal. Is a “son of Eccles Center” part of the back of house in the Creole Gulch hotel? How many theater seats can we really fill around here? Construction of the upper Main Street plaza in the Brewpub lot gets delayed again to scrape up the cash for the $6 million down payment.
It’s all very interesting, and has the potential to be something really significant in town. The bond would cost the owner of the typical million-dollar home in Park City about $90 a year. There’s a phrase that doesn’t roll easily off the tongue — the typical million-dollar home — but that’s where we are. That’s on top of the Bonanza Flat bond that will cost about the same. The City has spent another $20 million or so on the “arts district” property, but financed that with a sales tax on hotel rooms instead of a bond. But any way you look at it, $20 million here, and $20 million there, and before long, it begins to add up to real money.
Opportunities come when they come, and the timing seldom works conveniently. It would have been nice to have an election that gave voters the choices of Arts District, Bonanza, Treasure, all, some, or none, bundled in one package. The opportunities just didn’t present themselves in that way.
Meanwhile, the School District is still looking for $100 million. The county is also raising property taxes. For most of our population, another couple of hundred dollars in property tax on the typical million-dollar home won’t even be noticed. For the people who are in the workforce housing market, it means rents will go up, and for those who have been able to buy something, their cost of ownership will go up. Buying-in becomes a little more difficult. It’s all connected. Squeeze here, and get a bulge there.
The deal seems like something worth pursuing. The Treasure project as envisioned in 1986 was terrible. The City was more or less stuck without good options then. In its currently tumorous iteration, it’s even worse. But this deal needs to have a lot more information out there before the public can make a rational decision. The only clear loser is the Audi dealer, because if we eliminate 10 years of litigation, a lot of lawyers won’t be buying new cars.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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