PARK CITY — A $48 million ballot question in November will determine how important it is to Park City residents to save the iconic Treasure Hill from a massive development of condos and a high-rise hotel.
"People either want to pay to have this not happen or they don't," said Park City's assistant city manager, Matthew Dias. "It is a lot of money, and we understand that. Who better to decide than the voters?"
Owners of the roughly 105-acre Treasure Hill agreed to a buyout price of $64 million.
Last week the Park City Council decided to go forward with a $48 million bond this fall and is cobbling together the remaining money from elsewhere in the budget.
"We asked ourselves what we could defer, delay or cut without impacting city services," Dias said.
The bond also includes some money to go toward the purchase of the Armstrong properties, or Snow Ranch Pastures, in a joint effort with Utah Open Lands. The 19 acres is another chunk of land vulnerable to development and is highly visible from the city-owned golf course.
If approved, it would be the second time in two years that Park City residents agreed to spend money to stop development. In 2016, voters overwhelmingly approved a $25 million bond to help with the $38 million purchase price for Bonanza Flat in the mountains above the town.
Dias said the fate of Treasure Hill overlooking historic Park City has been a question for decades.
"For 30 years Park City has quietly been in this odyssey of working with the property owner," Dias said. "This literally goes back to the 1980s."
A proposed million square feet of mixed use development is on hold before the planning commission pending the outcome of the November vote.
Dias said it includes condos and a hotel.
"It is just not the right place for that level of intensity and density," he said.
The bond, if approved, would cost the owner of a $799,000 residence an extra $194 a year. For people with rental property, the price would nearly double.
"It is such a big decision our mayor and City Council were cautious and said this is something the voters should decide," Dias said.
For John Stafsholt, a board member of the Treasure Hill Impact Neighborhood Coalition, there's no question the bond should pass.
"This is a huge, huge story. This is the most important thing in Park City in decades. The fact is we have a chance to vote on the bond to save the town, basically," he said. "It is really that big."
Stafsholt belongs to a coalition working to save Treasure Hill from development.
"There have been many commissions, many city councils, many advocacy groups working to come up with an answer for this piece of land. After 33 years we just now had a solution that will work."
If voters approve the bond, Park City can put a conservation easement on the land for perpetuity.
"The density will be retired," Stafsholt said. "It will be a straight conservation easement."
Stafsholt said Treasure Hill is the last large swath of developable land within historic Park City.
"This is our one chance in a generation to save the character of the town," he said.
Dias said the "silver lining" for residents is that the city's resort economy will shoulder 85 percent of the $48 million bond through property and sales taxes paid by hotels, restaurants and owners of second homes.
The bond is also not out of reach for the city's finances, according to Treasure Hill information posted on the city's website, which indicates half of existing property tax debt will be retired over the next five years.
Stafsholt said interest in saving Treasure Hill extends beyond Park City, noting the coalition's mailing list includes 500 people from all over Summit County.
"Treasure Hill will be an atomic bomb that blows up the egg the Golden Goose laid. Old Town is the golden egg the whole city is based on," Stafsholt said.