Press enter to see results or esc to cancel.

Free bus from Park City to the Summit County Fair

Last year was the first year I went to the Summit county fair, and it was a wonderful experience. If I had one issue, it was knowing exactly where to park and where the fairgrounds were. It wasn’t a huge obstacle but I could imagine others having the same issue and deciding they may not go.

If you’re in the same boat, or perhaps you just don’t want to drive to Coalville, Summit County has the answer for you. This Friday and Saturday, buses leave on the half hour from the lot behind Jupiter Bowl and will take you to the fair. Oh, and it’s free.

It really doesn’t get any better than that. We hope to see you on that bus.

fair-free

RAMP Sports appears to have jumped into the abyss

Local Park City ski, board, and long board maker RAMP Sports appears to have closed up shop. The company’s facility, that used to be near the Home Depot, now sports a “For Lease” sign.

According to a Facebook post by a sponsored skier, the company had an investor pull out. That’s too bad for a company who tried to do it differently. Their philosophy seemed summed up by this quote from their website…

“Many popular skis and snowboards are manufactured in Asia where workers are paid $200/month building products with cheap materials and no environmental constraints. At RAMP, we feel certain that consumers would rather buy products built with new technology, high-end materials, clean best practices, and are made by people who love skiing and riding.”

It makes us hopeful that Armada will survive.

If anyone has any more insight into what happened, we would love to know more.

rampdone

h/t to the Friend of the Park Rag who provided this info.

Park City is No Longer Vail’s Largest Ski Property — Vail to Buy Whistler Blackcomb

Vail is on a buying spree. Today they announced they are buying 100% of the stock of Whistler Blackcomb, North America’s largest ski resort (by acreage). It has also been named the top ski resort in north america by Ski Magazine for 3 of the last 4 years.

According to Forbes, “Specifically Vail Resorts announced it would: Support Master Development Agreements with local First Nations, as Whistler Blackcomb is in the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations’ traditional territories; Retain local leadership, continuing to operate the resort principally with local Canadian management; Maintain local employment and retain the vast majority of current Whistler Blackcomb employees; Re-invest substantially in the resort experience, including continuing to build community and stakeholder support for the recently announced Renaissance project, a transformational investment which will diversify the local tourism economy; provide new four-season, weather-independent activities; and elevate Whistler Blackcomb’s core skiing, mountain biking and sightseeing experiences.”

It looks like Vail gained even more power in the industry than is had before (if that’s possible). Bravo to them for capturing what is consistently one of the top 3 resorts in North America.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Vail is paying $1.06 Billion USD to acquire the resort. In 2014, Vail paid $182 million for PCMR.

We’ll be looking forward to our friends from the Great North descending on us with their Epic passes in the coming years. Now may be a good time for someone to open Park City’s first Tim Hortons franchise.

Glad we got our $50 million in upgrades before there were bigger fish to fry.

h/t to the friend of the Park Rag who let us know

We miss the Park Record’s online comments

With the most recent changes to the Park Record’s website, they effectively killed their comments. They now require a facebook account to add a comment, which of course removes the possibility of anonymous comments. We think that’s a shame.

It’s true that we always felt we were wading through 90% of crud to get to the 10% of golden comments. Yet, those 10% were worth something. Now we get 0%.

We also felt there was some entertainment value in the comments. We never liked the personal insults against community members or the name calling but sometimes we were just left shaking our collective heads at how people think (much like many of you do, when you read the Park Rag, we’re sure).

So, we hope the powers that be bring the anonymous comments back to the Park Record.

In a community where many people are afraid to speak out because they fear it will harm their business, they’ll be reprimanded, they work for local government, or their position will be “dissolved,” there is a place for anonymity. Even if a large part of it is crap, providing the ability for people to reach a large audience with important information is part of what we would expect from one of our most important local news sources.

We’re afraid we are going to miss out on something important because that has been removed.

Don’t Raise Our Taxes! Raise the Park City Resorts’ Taxes.

You may have heard that Park City and Summit County governments are gung-ho about raising taxes related to “solving” transportation problems. We understand their passion. A few times each year, and on the occasional Saturday, traffic backs up from Sidewinder Drive to Summit Park. It must be solved… we guess.

According to the Park Record, Park City and Summit County are contemplating a sales tax for help with buses transportation. County Council member Chris Robinson said, “I think this is very good and it looks promising because it is not a big lift, it is not regressive and it is not on food and gas. I think by seizing this today it will solve our own problems.”

Usually we agree with Mr Robinson, but in this case we find a few issues. It will be more expensive to buy cars here. It will be more expensive to buy back to school clothes in Park City. It will be more expensive for residents to dine out in Park City. Ski passes will cost more here. While perhaps its not regressive in the most pure sense, it still impacts Park City’s working class (i.e. people who live and work here). These are the things that many of us “regular” residents do in Park City. It’s true that a .5% increase in sales tax won’t impact the average Parkite too much. If you spent $100,000 around Park City, it would cost you $500 extra. Most of us don’t spend that kind of money each year, but every dollar does count.

What we wonder is if there is a better way to not only raise money for transportation but also for our schools and other areas of need. What we wonder is if the resorts are paying their fair share of property taxes.

For example, take parcel PCA-S-98-PCMR-1. That represents 2400 acres in the heart of old PCMR, just west of Park City. What’s the market value of this property? $6.1 million or $2,500 per acre. Let’s compare that to 528 Park Avenue. What’s the market value of this .04 acre property? $563,000 or $14 million per acre. That means a piece of land, with a tiny house on it, is valued 5,800 times more per acre than the land used to make skiing possible at PCMR.

How can that be?

First, let’s state that it isn’t an apple to apple comparison. The land with the house obviously has improvements on the land which increase its value (i.e. the “what appears to be” 400 square foot house). The ski land has improvements too, like lifts, but it appears those are treated as personal property. So, it’s not a completely fair comparison, but the differences are so large that it made us wonder how the land used to make the ski resorts hum is valued so little in comparison.

So we reached out to Summit County Assessor Steve Martin. Mr Martin and the county’s Commercial Appraiser Jeremy Manning offered to meet to discuss the issue (that’s the great thing about Summit County government… everyone is more than willing to answer questions and help). We spent a few minutes on the phone and the answer became clear.

One of the main components of the market valuation is the type of zoning upon which this land sits. This land is zoned as OPEN SPACE. So whether the land is untouched open space … or zoned that way (and used to generate millions in revenues for ski resorts), it’s valuation ,and taxes, has a basis in how the land is zoned.

We asked Mr Manning if would be possible to zone the land in a different way, such as a “Open Space Ski Resort Zone” thus potentially providing a mechanism to value the land more appropriately. Mr Manning said that may be possible but it would make his job more difficult because there is not a lot of that type of land out there.

We’re frankly not sure the legality of changing the zoning. There could be Utah laws prohibiting that. There could be legal issues related to deed restrictions that have been placed on the open space land that force it into a type of planning zone. There could be other issues.

What we do believe is that the land that is used by ski resorts for runs and lifts should not be treated like other pieces of open space, that may not need usable for commercial purposes. $2500 per acre isn’t a lot of market value per acre for a ski resort. Maybe better said, the $21 paid each year in property taxes for each acre likely isn’t commensurate with the real value of that land to Vail.

Should that land be valued at $14 million per acre? Likely not. However, somewhere in between $2500 and a few million per acre probably makes sense. That money could then be used to help fix transportation issues (that are in part caused by visitors to our resorts), help pay for schools, and be used in a variety of ways that would benefit our community.

If possible we may get more out of that than simply adding on a sales tax that both penalizes residents and is limited to transportation.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry…

It was one of those mornings.

I “walk my kids” at Gorgoza along with our nine month old puppy. Today, my 4 year old wanted me to tell him the story about how I “swam with ducks” in the Gorgoza pond. I faithfully obliged but then wasn’t paying attention to the dog. She spotted a runner and “greeted” her. Of course, not everyone likes a 60 pound dog charging at them and then violently sniffing their back-side.

I was mortified.

While I put my dog on leash and repeatedly said “I’m so sorry”, the woman, who was justifiably scared said, “I have dogs too.” However, her eyes said something different. Her eyes said, “I’m scared. What are you doing?”

I suppose if I was a different person I would say, “This is Dog City USA and you should deal with it!” to the woman we encountered, but I’m not. I was the one on a trail with my dog off leash. I was in the wrong.

I suppose I could look back to the story I was telling my son. On that June day, when he was just born, I was at Gorgoza and a dog was swimming after a mother duck and her 6 ducklings. The owner was oblivious. I tried talking to the owner to no avail. I tried yelling, to no avail. I tried throwing rocks at the dog to stop him, to no avail. So, eventually I swam out into the pod to try and stop him (and almost drowned). FYI, dogs swim faster than most humans. The mother duck eventually abandoned her ducklings and flew away. However, past deeds do not matter. The woman my dog “wanted to play with” doesn’t get or care about that event 3 years ago. My 60 pound dog bounded towards her.

So, all I’m left with is … I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next time. I won’t always have my dog on leash, but I’ll try to pay more attention to those people coming up on the trail. I’ll try to make sure that my actions don’t impact others. I’ll do my best to come out earlier when fewer people are not on the trail.

While no one was bit or hurt, as often is the case with the traditional story you’ll read in the Park Record, I still feel terribly bad. I’m a firm believer in Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ statement, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” Today, I “hit”that woman and I feel horribly about that.

I’ll try to do better.

 

 

How many more multi million dollar homes do we need?

We saw a story in the online magazine The Observer entitled, “Live Like It’s Always Sundance at This Chic New Park City Development.”

When we read the following line in the article, we took notice, “Those who happen to adore the locale not just for that celebrity-infested period in January might want to check out developer Columbus Pacific’s new Apex Residences Park City, a luxe mountain resort on ten acres in Canyons Village. But back to the Apex Residences, which will be comprised of 63 three- to five-bedroom homes. The residences will range in size from 2,080 square feet up to 3,800 square feet. The luxe collection of homes ranges from $1 to 3 million, with the option of overlook, plaza, or clubhouse level residences.”

Sixty three $1MM-$3MM residences? Wow.

We always knew that the Canyons were only 25%-30% built out but maybe we were so naive that we didn’t consider that the remaining 75% of the land would be filled with $2 million condos.

Of course, they have the development rights to build it. What we question is if they build it, will they come? Of course, they’ve already sold 23 of them, so maybe the answer is yes.

Perhaps the better question is, how many people are out there willing to spend $2 million on a second home in Park City? Perhaps more than we thought.With building like this, we better hope so.

The problem with surveys…

We remember when we first started following the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, they were discussing an update to the General Plan. The General Plan guides what development should be allowed. Repeatedly, a survey from a few years before, where a hundred residents showed up, and completed some sort of activity, that then ranked the top priorities, was used (in part) to guide the discussion. We had a hard time believing the information was being used… A self selected group, doing some exercise that ranked priorities, but that few (if any people) knew actually how it was derived, from a couple years before was helping to make decisions.

And that’s why we frankly hate government surveys. You never know how (or when) they are going to be used.

Today we stumbled upon a survey that was linked from the Summit County website entitled, “We want to know your preferences and priorities regarding public land management within Summit County.” Fair enough, we use public land when we camp and hike (and many other times) so we thought we should give our opinion, and it reminded us of why we hate these things. What were the questions?

 

Question 1: Rank these public land resource values in your preferred order of importance, highest to lowest, with 1 being the highest importance. The options were things like protecting water quality, protecting natural resources, etc. So, that one made sense.

Question 2: On a scale of 1 to 10, how high of a priority do you feel the following resource topics are for county resource management planning? This is where it started to go off the rails. The answers were things like mining, land use, land access, air quality, wilderness, recreation & tourism, etc. If we answer that recreation & tourism is a high priority, do we mean that we want more recreation & tourism or do we mean that we want it managed more effectively? If we say wilderness is a top priority for county resource planning, does that mean that we want the county to take federal lands back and manage them or that we need to protect our wilderness more? It’s confusing.

Question 3: Pick your top 5 resource priorities. There is then a list of things: mining, land use, land access, recreation & tourism, noxious weeds, etc. Of course, some of these are obvious. If you pick noxious weeds as your top choice, you want the county to manage weeds better. If you choose recreation and tourism, what does that mean? We guess that you want the county make it a priority to do something related to recreation & tourism. If you’re for an expansion of economic development in Summit County your understanding of that question is likely diametrically opposed to someone who thinks development of Park City should have stopped in 1985. Bad questions.

We could continue with the other 8 questions (some are better than others) but the point is that good surveys are tough to do. Another point is that our local governments (Park City, Summit County, PCSD) shouldn’t factor in results from anything less than a good survey. If the survey was from Survey Monkey (on the internet), you might as well go to the Hogle Zoo and find your answer.

Finally, if a good survey has been done, and the results are guiding local governments, BUT THE SITUATION CHANGES, the results of that survey should no longer be valid. Let’s say that a survey was done that said we need more ice rinks. So a bond is passed to build another ice rink; however, someone in Wasatch County announces they are building a skating facility and we know that a huge percentage of our current ice rink’s users are from Heber, do we still need to build an ice rink? It should factor in heavily and results of any survey saying we need more ice is likely is much less valid

Likewise, maybe a survey was done 3 years ago that says that we need more aquatic facilities. Then, perhaps,the Basin Rec decides that they will add swimming lanes to the field house. That original survey’s conclusion is no longer necessarily valid for other decisions. If the county, city, and Basin Rec decide to jointly build another field house, should it include swimming? Maybe or maybe not… but since swimming is now planned for the old field house, the results from a survey done before the facts on the ground changed, aren’t valid.

Now, people may say results of a bad survey are better than nothing. “At least we know what some people are thinking” would be the claim. We completely disagree. Most of our local, government surveys involve a zero sum game. There is only so much money to go around.

We shouldn’t rely on the results of some random survey or meeting to guide our local governments. We especially shouldn’t allow a survey with questions that could be interpreted in a number of ways to guide us. The survey we saw today reminded us of that. If a crowd gathered in 2009 and was asked “Due to the economic crisis should we do anything and everything possible to spur development around Park City?” Many people would likely have said yes at the time. Would that answer be called scientific? Does it still apply today?

Likely not.

And that is what we fear from government surveys that are used to justify a course of action.

Park City School District and Associate Superintendent are parting ways; agree to $200,000+ Severance

On the 13th of July, The Park City Board of Education and Associate Superintendent Tom Van Gorder entered into a “Severance, Waiver, and Release” agreement. The agreement conveys that:

  • Mr Van Gorder’s tenure with the district will end on 8/31/2016
  • The District will pay up to $200,000 to purchase retirement service credit for Mr Van Gorder
  • The District will pay for 180 days of insurance benefits for Mr Van Gorder
  • The District will pay Mr Van Gorder his Administrative bonus for 2015/2016, outstanding sick leave, and vacation leave.

There are also other pieces of the agreement: Mr Van Gorder and the district agree not to sue the each other, the district will provide letters of recommendation for Mr Van Gorder, both parties agree not to disparage each other, and the agreement is confidential (unless required by law to share…which the district was required to share), etc..

We won’t editorialize this much. We’ve talked with Mr Van Gorder only a handful of times, and he was always very pleasant, nice, and knowledgable. We take the school district at their word (per this agreement) that he was “a very valuable employee”, “has considerable knowledge”, and has “received consistently excellent evaluations.”

We still will note that $200,000-plus is a lot of money.

In case you’d like to review it, here is the agreement we received via GRAMA request from the School District. We have masked signatures because we wouldn’t want our signatures on the Internet (and assume these parties don’t either).

What’s also interesting to watch is the school board meeting where they ultimately approve this agreement. Here is the overview of the discussion:

  1. Motion is made to approve and second the “separation agreement.” They enter discussion.
  2. School Board member Nancy Garrison says she would like to discuss the matter. Ms. Garrison says she is “fully in support of the Superintendent forming her own administrative team so she can achieve her goals… but I don’t think this agreement represents the best use of public funds.”
  3. Then one of the board members (can’t tell who from the video) says, “we’ll need further discussion before I can vote for it.”
  4. School Board President says, “then we’ll need to adjourn to closed session.” They do.
  5. They come back and Board member Phil Kaplan has joined them via phone.
  6. Another motion is made that they vote on the agreement
  7. Board member Phil Kaplan, via phone says, these types of agreements are more common in the corporate world, in order for a team to function well you not only need the best players but those players that work well together, and this is not a high cost sort of deal. He says he will support it.
  8. Board member, Julie Eihausen says she agrees with what Nancy said but that “for our district to be able to move forward, we need to move forward.”
  9. School Board president Tania Knauer then says she agrees with Phil and Nancy and wants to do what is best for kids and moving on is what’s best for kids. So, she is for it.
  10. Ms Garrison then votes against the motion. Mr Kaplan, Ms Eihausen, and Ms Knauer vote for it.
  11. The agreement passes.

Strange. The public is left to try and piece it all together. What exactly is going on?

We still come back to the fact that $200,000 (plus benefits) IS A LOT OF MONEY. We have the same question as School Board member Nancy Garrison, is this the best use of public funds? Mr Kaplan stated that this isn’t a high cost sort of deal. We suppose it’s not in the same league with the reported $40 million buyout Fox News paid to Roger Ailes after he allegedly sexually harassed a coworker. However, for a district that has had to recently raise taxes because it went negative into its rainy day fund, $200,000+ is real money.

We are sure there is more here, but it’s obvious that the district wants to move forward and quickly… “for the good of the children.”

Again, what exactly happened here?

If you are interested, here are the school board videos that (we guess) discuss the agreement.