Deer Valley’s neighbors are suing over its expansion plans. What’s next?

The lawsuit argues Park City’s process for vacating a portion of Deer Valley Drive was flawed and must start over. That’s not what’s happening.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) People walk through a full parking lot at Deer Valley Resort in Park City on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.

Homeowners have sued Park City over its December decision to allow Deer Valley to tear out a stretch of road to help transform Snow Park into a “world-class base village.”

The January lawsuit asks a judge to reverse the City Council’s vote, halting its proposed multimillion-dollar deal with Deer Valley for a regional transportation facility, and to order the city to start the planning process over.

But rather than pushing for an immediate hearing on those requests, court records show and Deer Valley confirmed, the suing homeowners associations are privately negotiating for the changes they want.

In a letter sent to the city before the lawsuit was filed, attorney Eric P. Lee wrote that homeowners wanted settlement talks to start with their traffic concerns and with creating a process to find remedies for any future “material injury” that may arise as the resort expands.

The letter was included with the court filing; Lee didn’t respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment.

The residents’ list included fewer parking spaces at Snow Park, restrictions on parking in surrounding neighborhoods, gates on Amber Road to stop skier traffic, more remote parking for Deer Valley employees and a free shuttle for residents to the resort.

In a statement, Deer Valley said it is “engaged in discussions” with the city and plaintiffs, which are the American Flag, Pinnacle and Morning Star Estates homeowners associations.

“We hope that any outstanding matters can be resolved amicably and to the satisfaction of all parties involved,” the resort said.

[Read more: Controversial Deer Valley development with ski beach may have received a boost from Senate President Stuart Adams]

With the road decision made, city officials have said, Park City’s planning commission would next consider the resort’s requests to tweak its master plan development permit and related conditional use permit requests.

In a statement, Park City said it doesn’t “anticipate” that the 3rd District Court lawsuit filed Jan. 12 will halt that work, or block the council from working on the public-private partnership with Deer Valley announced in December.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Park City also said it disagreed with the lawsuit’s allegations that the city’s process was flawed.

“The City Council and Planning Commission worked for over two years to ensure that the process and determinations were in the best interest of Park City,” the statement read, “and met all applicable legal standards.”

What are the problems?

Council members unanimously approved an ordinance to vacate the requested stretch of Deer Valley Drive at their Dec. 14 meeting. They also approved a letter of intent for a deal with Deer Valley, with the city and the resort each agreeing to contribute $15 million to construct a “regional transportation facility” near State Route 248.

The facility would create a minimum 900-stall off-site parking structure, and the funds may be used to build affordable housing with 50 to 100 beds, according to the letter of intent. The plan includes limiting parking at the Snow Park base to 1,971 spaces, with 1,360 designated for day-use skiing; a gondola connecting Snow Park and Silver Lake; and a new public transit center to facilitate drop-offs.

But attorneys for the homeowners associations — which represent hundreds of Park City residents with property bordering on or near Deer Valley Drive — argue the deal did not give the city “good cause” to vacate the road right-of-way.

Utah law allows a city to vacate a public street only if “good cause exists” and neither the public interest nor any person “will be materially injured.”

Among the lawsuit’s claims:

• The two council members who negotiated with Deer Valley — Ryan Dickey and Max Doilney — were biased toward the deal they helped create, and allowing them to vote on the ordinance violated due process.

• The city could not find good cause because Deer Valley did not provide it with alternative renovation plans that would have retained the road. The homeowners claim the council’s vote “without ever considering alternative plans from [Deer Valley] was arbitrary and capricious.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Parking lots for the Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023.

• The city could not find good cause because the right of way still has “significant utility,” including allowing “for the operation of critical bus routes that drop [Deer Valley] patrons literally at the resort’s doorstep” and “thousands use [it] for exercise and other recreational activities.”

• The requirement for the city to spend at least $15 million results “in a net zero consideration paid” for the road, which is not “fair and adequate” compensation.

“Even if the proposed $15 million payment by [Deer Valley] can be considered the compensation … it is a pittance compared to the value and utility” of the road, the suit adds.

Deer Valley “stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the project, perhaps billions, especially if the Winter Olympics come to Utah in 2034,” the lawsuit said, “as the City and Council acknowledged on the record they fully anticipate will happen.”

The city and resort respond

The lawsuit argues a judge should stop the city from “further processing” Deer Valley’s master plan development permit and conditional use permit, and from “consumating” the agreement with the resort. It also asks a judge to order the city to reverse its approval of the ordinance and review the issues anew.

In its statement, Park City said the characterization of its decision as “arbitrary and capricious” was inaccurate, but it directed The Tribune to Deer Valley for further comment. Deer Valley did not directly address that claim in its emailed response.

The resort said it is “committed to continue our work with the community” as the renovation plans proceed to the planning commission.

”We firmly believe our proposed project for Snow Park Village resonates with the interests and values of our guests, community, and staff,” Deer Valley said. “... Our confidence in this proposal stems from the thorough research and dedication invested in its development.”

Deer Valley approached Park City with its renovation plans in 2021, asking for approval to build a new parking structure and a “new base village” with housing, guest lodging, parking, retail and dining space, a transportation hub, ski lifts and other facilities, according to the revamped master plan. Its leaders called this the “last major piece” in the original vision for the ski resort, conceptualized 40 years ago.

(Deer Valley Resort) The road vacation decision is a major step forward for Deer Valley's proposed development of a new village in Snow Park (pictured).

As of Monday, there were no hearings scheduled, court records indicate, and Park City had not yet officially responded to the suit’s claims.

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