But Hurst's marketing skills are in doubt after he drafted a slick mailing in defense of Cottonwood Mall Redux.
Holladay Citizens United (Hurst and some of his neighbors) suggested that without a public tax subsidy for the $550 million, 57-acre project, mall owners General Growth Properties might take their marbles and go play somewhere else - Hilton Head, S.C.
For proof, he quoted a letter from GGP President Robert Michaels: "We will be forced to invest our money elsewhere, which will result in the property sitting vacant for potentially many years."
It's a classic scare tactic that Hurst and the mall owners insist is a real possibility.
But Holladay Citizens United's mailing struck some city residents as alarmist, at best, threatening, at worst. And it's become a point of contention between old and new City Council members.
Holladay's financial and psychic future hinges on Cottonwood Mall. It's the fledgling city's one-time and would-be center and its largest source of revenue - the reason Holladay incorporated in the first place. And now the vacant hulk seems to be snagging on the politics of redevelopment.
Democrat Councilman-elect Barry Topham calls it a "scam." The Granite School Board, faced with four redevelopment projects that would divert future tax revenue from schools, is hesitating to sign off.
And the Utah Taxpayers Association has mustered all its anti-RDA outrage. President Howard Stephenson idiotically suggests a big-box store would be a better use of the property. He argues the housing and commercial buildings GGP plans will be built "somewhere by someone without a subsidy."
The Chicago-based mall developer wants to build a city within a city - 534 condos and apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space, another 700,000 square feet of shops and 17 acres of open space. After letting the mall go fallow - "blighted" in RDA speak - they expect taxpayers to help pay to raise the complex out of the Big Cottonwood Creek flood plain and build water and sewer lines, streets and sidewalks. It means diverting about $100 million in tax revenue over 20 years.
Granite School District's share of the bill is $50 million. Board President Sarah Meier says the Holladay project is the largest of five proposed RDAs "knocking at the door."
"If we didn't have to contribute, we stand to make a lot more much sooner," says Meier.
That's where Hilton Head comes in. GGP claims its profit margin is too tight to go it alone. "But for the subsidy, we wouldn't move forward," says Kris Longson, GGP vice president of development and a neighbor of Holladay Citizens United's founders.
Topham and some residents say GGP is resorting to "extortion." But the rest of the City Council wants to smooth things over.
After a hastily assembled emergency work meeting last week, they drafted their own letter to residents and the school board to counter criticism of the project.
"We wanted this here, so we could collect these taxes and keep the lifeblood of our city," says Councilman Steve Peterson.
Cities love RDAs; they speed the transformation of abandoned buildings and railyards.
Developers love them too; taxpayer money cuts their costs.
And they have come to expect public subsidies. Whether or not you agree with the hostage-taking strategy of this one, Holladay's future depends on it.
For now, Hurst is holding on to three remaining mailings. Instead, Holladay Citizens sent out a "friendlier, folksier" letter with an anecdote from Cottonwood Mall neighbor Ruby Steele.
"What the hell is the matter with them," Steele says. "Don't they have a lick of sense?"
Depends on your definition of sense, I guess.