Park City plans to give Deer Valley part of public road. For $15 million.

The Mayor proposed the deal, but the city council must vote on the ski resort’s redevelopment project. A resident group remains opposed to a key element.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fans watch the Men's Aerials Final at Deer Valley, 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The region will likely see the Olympics return in 2034, as Deer Valley prepares for expansion.

Park City • For two years, a 2.6-acre section of road around Deer Valley’s base area has been a sticking point in the resort’s expansion plans.

Deer Valley leadership insists it needs the road for a ski beach in its new design, which would replace the Snow Park parking lots with a ski-in and ski-out village, shops, restaurants and condos.

Park City officials have repeatedly asked for a different design so the city can keep the road, which is a public thoroughfare used by year-round homeowners.

The city reversed course last week, announcing it had negotiated a deal with Deer Valley to give the resort the portion of Deer Valley Drive it wants, receiving in return a $15 million investment into transportation infrastructure and affordable housing.

Park City Mayor Nann Worel said the proposed partnership would also reduce parking by 15 to 20 percent at the mountain base. Fewer parking spots and expanded public transit options are geared toward reducing the number of cars coming in and out of town.

The project would also connect Deer Valley chairlifts to U.S. 40, which could reduce resort traffic entering the city. That connection dovetails with Deer Valley’s management of the resort formerly called Mayflower on U.S. 40, which is owned by Extell Development and falls under Utah’s Military Installation Development Authority jurisdiction, or MIDA.

The proposed plan also includes creating a gondola network to connect the Mayflower area to the Snow Park base.

Worel said the partnership would fulfill community desires for more regional transportation, solutions to traffic congestion and new ways to get onto the mountain.

“This effort goes beyond any individual project,” she said. “This proposed partnership is one significant step in a much bigger effort to guide Park City toward a bolder, brighter future for all of us.”

She also called the deal essential as Utah’s plans to host the 2034 Olympic Games proceed. In 2002, Deer Valley hosted freestyle moguls, aerials and alpine slalom events on three of its runs.

The city council did not take action, but Worel, announcing the proposal with Deer Valley President and COO Todd Bennett, said the item will be back on the council agenda for a public hearing this week. Specific terms of the deal likely won’t be ready, however.

It will appear again on the following week’s agenda, likely as an action item. City council approval would send Deer Valley’s application to the Park City Planning Commission, where details would be negotiated. Deer Valley’s website estimates it would complete the project in 2029-2030.

Utah law stipulates that to grant a road vacation, “good cause” must exist to do so, and no “material injury” to a person or public interest will result. Worel referenced this standard and said she believes the proposal is in compliance.

More than an hour of public comment followed Worel’s announcement. Two residents praised the plan and 15 spoke against it, citing traffic worries related to the road vacation and concerns about process. Two others, including City Councilor-elect Ed Parigian, asked questions but didn’t express a position.

“We’d like a new, realistic traffic study,” said resident Brad Baldridge. “The Fehr & Peers traffic study is not reflective of current conditions we see outside our door….essentially, peak traffic is the norm for Deer Valley.”

Baldridge said a City Hall traffic study found ski traffic reached “peak” levels on 68 days last year, or more than half the winter.

He said his HOA supports a citizen group called Protect the Loop, its name a reference to the road. The group’s founders say they represent 31 homeowners associations containing 1,114 households.

Most HOA presidents who spoke said their members were also aligned with Protect the Loop, or PTL.

PTL formed in 2022 to provide information about the development to homeowners, then evolved to advocate for residents. It supports Deer Valley redeveloping its base but opposes the road vacation design.

After conducting community surveys, PTL produced an alternative to Deer Valley’s design that would move some of Deer Valley Drive underground and increase free microtransit; under that plan PTL said Deer Valley would still get the area it wants for a ski beach, but with reduced traffic impacts.

PTL presented its idea to the city council in June and also lobbied city officials and Deer Valley executives. City officials were enthusiastic about PTL’s design in public and private meetings. Bennett, Deer Valley’s COO, declined to meet with the group.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Todd Bennett President and COO of Deer Valley Resort, talks about the new Deer Valley Resort Expansion, at the Silver Lake Lodge in Deer Valley, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

City officials said in a follow up statement that Deer Valley’s existing development rights obligate them to process the application as submitted. Essentially, if Deer Valley doesn’t want to adopt PTL’s suggestions, it doesn’t have to.

The statement also emphasized that “Council and Mayor have strived to facilitate an open and inclusive process, including numerous public meetings and community comments from every corner of our city,” and “fought for residents’ broadly shared priorities and secured key concessions in the proposed partnership.”

During public comment Thursday, HOA presidents reiterated support for redeveloping the base, long part of Deer Valley’s master plan, but said they remained opposed to the road vacation.

Others raised procedural concerns.

Resident Deb Rentfrow told the city it was violating its own land management code, which requires applications be moved to denial or approval in “a reasonably expeditious manner.”

“It is imperative our city follow its own code as well as [precedent]... applications over 180 days old without substantial progress are to be denied,” Rentfrow said. “Deer Valley is not entitled to special treatment.”

Park City says Deer Valley’s application has not met any of the four triggers of inaction defined in the land master code.

Others questioned whether the deal could set a precedent for future development and whether its terms were good enough.

“We have no financial disclosure from Deer Valley about their financial benefit from the road vacation,” said resident Allison Kitching. “What if it’s hundreds of millions of dollars? The $15 million seems like a joke in that case.”

The next public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 5.