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Park City expected to annex part of Flagstaff Mountain
Council wants to control proposed development

PARK CITY -- The City Council is expected to annex 1,600 acres on Flagstaff Mountain Thursday to reap the tax revenue and control a proposed multi-million-dollar development that has generated controversy in this tony resort community for the past five years.

"I think basically it will pass and the annexation will be voted on positively by the council, but there may be some wording changes," City Council member Roger Harlan predicted.In addition to annexation of the property, a draft development agreement with concessions to appease opponents of the Flagstaff project is also expected to pass at Thursday's council meeting.

Citizens for Responsible Growth, a local citizens group that opposed the resort until developer United Park City Mines conceded to scale back the project, hopes to sit back to witness the fruits of its labor.

"Basically, most of the things we've asked for are in the draft agreement," said Dana Williams, director of the citizens group. "It's not a done deal. The City Council and the developer haven't signed off on this yet. If the final draft of the development agreement passes, as it is now written, then we have a lot (of concessions)."

The citizens group has taken an active role for more than four years in seeing that the developer abide by planning codes. If acceptable concessions can't be met, the citizens group will attempt to stall the project by acting on a referendum.

The proposed Flagstaff development envelopes scenic mid-mountain acreage between Deer Valley and Park City Mountain resorts. The area is popular among hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers -- and wildlife.

In addition to some single-family home sites, the resort would include a mountain village with 75,000 square feet of retail and commercial space; 705 units housed in hotels and condominiums; and one area oriented to pedestrians, according to special projects planner Nora Shepard.

The Flagstaff project would hover over the historic town and impact Park City as a whole, yet the property is located outside city boundaries. In order for Park City to benefit from the tax revenues and control the nearby development, the council has been asked by the planning department to annex Flagstaff Mountain, said Shepard.

Citizens for Responsible Growth will also decide, based on concessions approved at the meeting, whether it will seek a referendum after the property is annexed, Williams said. The referendum would place the annexation question in the hands of voters.

By forcing the issue at November's ballot box, the project could end up under the jurisdiction of Summit County where the developer would have to start approval processes all over again.

Given the opportunity, many locals would like to stop the development by voting against its annexation. Many residents believe this former mining town-turned-resort has lost its old-town charm because of overdevelopment.

"I don't feel (gathering) signatures would be a problem," Williams said of the possblity of filing the required petition to place the annexation issue before voters.

United Park City Mines declined to comment.

The proposed project has been a lightening-rod issue, yet public debate has caused a minimum of acrimony, according to Harlan. "People had the ability to argue their positions strongly without burning relationships. We live in a small town, and we see each other at the market."

Two concessions outlined in the final draft of the development agreement were added since last Friday, according to the citizens group.

In addition to providing guest shuttle services at the resort, already included in the agreement, an additional concession was added to provide employee transportation to and from town to reduce traffic.

Increased protection of Lady Morgan Springs open space, a unique high-altitude wetlands area, was another concession incorporated into the draft agreement since last Friday.

Phoenix-based DMB has been working with the citizens group, the mining company and city staff during the last three months to work out concessions, Williams said.

The mining company searched the nation for the real estate development company; and it is speculated DMB will develop the project while the mining company will put up the land, but the new partnership has not been officially announced, he said.

Since DMB's involvement, the mining company has backed off negative publicity against Citizens for Responsible Growth, according to Williams. "I think it was a sign that everyone is willing to come to a conclusion to preclude the referendum," Williams said.

In addition to the recent concessions, the developer has made the following concessions in the draft agreement that was to go before the council:

No development in Prospect Ridge, which included 16 house sites on the ridge. It would be a conservation easement prohibiting development.

The "Northside Neighborhood," in the uppermost region of Deer Valley, would be reduced from a 100-acre single-family housing site to a 63-acre site that would include 38 home sites. Only buyers wanting to place the land in conservation easements, however, could buy property in the 63 acres during the first three years of the development.

Development on the lower mountain has been reduced to 84 acres.

All parking would be underground or enclosed and include surface parking for service vehicles.

No ski runs or lifts would be permitted on the Iron Mountain, Prospect Ridge or in the Enchanted Forest areas.

There would be public access to trails in both Summit and Wasatch counties, which includes Bonanza Flats.