Buried Treasure: Preserving the Hillside in Park City

Take a ride up the town chairlift at Park City Resort. Look at the snow-covered pines lining both sides of the lift towers. Take a deep breath of crisp air. Listen hard, and hear absolutely nothing. Now relax, knowing the solitude won’t be disappearing any time soon.

In November, voters in Park City overwhelmingly supported the acquisition of Treasure Hill with more than 77% of ballots cast to approve the $48 million general obligation bond to purchase and preserve the land. The election results brought closure to the dramatic 30-year saga surrounding the fate of Treasure Hill.

The Treasure Partnership—which consists of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC—owned Treasure Hill and controlled the area’s development rights.  Proposed plans for the area included more than one million square feet of mixed-use space for a high-rise hotel, condos and retail space on the heavily-forested slopes rising above Old Town. Residents contentiously debated the fate of Treasure Hill for years, with tensions rising in the months preceding the election. On one side advocates sought to protect the last vestiges of open space in Park City, while others opposed yet another property tax that would stick the burden of land preservation on average homeowners. The Treasure Partnership will  receive a total of $64 million for the property from Park City.

Ultimately, the staggering vote totals made a resoundingly clear statement: Parkites have had enough of unfettered development snatching up land in Park City, and most were willing to foot their portion of the bill. The property tax increase approved through the vote is estimated to be $194 per year on  $800,000 homes classified as  primary residences and $353 annually on equivalently-valued vacation homes or commercial properties. It’s the second straight election in which Park City’s voters have supported the preservation of open space with their own pocketbooks, following approval of $25 million bond to purchase Bonanza Flats in 2016.

Most of the community view the referendum as a win for all parties. The Sweeney family received an adequate return on their substantial investment and the vast majority of Parkites were willing to accept a reasonable property tax-increase to preserve the character of Old Town. The push-and-pull of progress and expansion will always be at the forefront of debate in Park City, but the Treasure Hill vote saves a jewel in the center of town. Future generations have present-day voters to thank for the views.

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Tony Gill
Tony Gillhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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