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Judge grants Park City resort's eviction but puts it on hold

Published June 19, 2014 10:19 pm

For community's benefit, judge orders the resort, Talisker to enter mediation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A 3rd District judge ruled Thursday that Talisker Land Holdings is entitled to evict Park City Mountain Resort from mountainside lands PCMR failed to re-lease from Talisker, but granted a stay on enforcing his decision.

Judge Ryan Harris ordered the two companies into mediation to resolve the dispute, contending they owe it to the Park City community. The mediation order surprised most observers.

Harris scheduled an Aug. 27 hearing to consider how to enforce the eviction order if mediation does not produce a settlement. The hearing also will address whether the stay will remain intact thereafter.

Harris determined PCMR is occupying Talisker's land unlawfully because it let its lease for 2,800 acres of mountainside expire in 2011. When negotiations with Talisker to overcome that deficiency went nowhere, PCMR filed suit in 2012. Talisker responded with eviction notices, which now have come into play after Harris made a series of rulings largely in favor of Talisker.

PCMR attorney Alan Sullivan has vowed to appeal Harris's rulings. He contended Thursday the eviction is premature until appeals and other decisions — such as damages and attorney fees — are rendered.

In his arguments, PCMR attorney Sullivan said an eviction would lead to the closure of PCMR, resulting in a "tremendous hardship" for the community.

"We are willing to do a deal with Vail so the resort will not shut down," he added, referring to Vail Resorts, which Talisker retained in May of 2013 to run Canyons Resort and to take the lead in this litigation.

Talisker attorney John Lund contended the judge should follow state laws that allow property owners to recover their land promptly. "They [PCMR officials] only ask for postponement and delay," he said.

Lund also said "unnecessary drama" was being caused in this case by the Cumming family, which owns PCMR's parent company, Powdr Corp. John Cumming, PCMR's chief executive, has vowed to hold onto his resort's base facilities and not to provide access across them to the mountainside.

Arguments also addressed PCMR's threat to remove a dozen lifts it built on the mountainside if the eviction notice is enforced.

Sullivan noted the lifts are "incredibly valuable pieces of equipment" not subject to the lease because they are separate from the land. Lund countered that the lifts are affixed to the ground and must remain under an eviction.

Harris is expected to rule on the status of the lifts later.

Thursday's court hearing generated considerable interest from Park City residents, whose financial futures could be damaged significantly if this battle between ski-industry goliaths results in PCMR's closure this winter.

Main Street businessman Mike Sweeney and restaurateur Rick Anderson were there, concerned about the impact on their businesses if there is a shutdown.

Other familiar park City figures included Tom Daley, an attorney for Park City, former councilman Joe Kernan and Myles Rademan, the city's former public affairs director and longtime ski-industry observer.