A fundamental question we face as a community is how much growth we want. We know that more growth is coming, not only from our own existing entitlements, but from Wasatch County. Now, it seems we have another question to answer:
Do we want to accelerate growth?
This Wednesday the Summit County Council will discuss creating a special services district at the Canyons. TCFC, the primary property owner at Canyons Village (Canyons), is requesting that Summit County create a $21 million bond to help pay for their infrastructure. Individual property owners at the Canyons Village would then pay higher property taxes to pay off the bond.
In a presentation created by TCFC for the Summit County Council, TCFC says it’s an “Opportune Timing to Accelerate Development and Tax Generation” for Summit County. TCFC wants to add infrastructure to the Canyons, including a new Main Street, a high mountain road, and an $11.7 million parking garage (among other smaller projects). TCFC’s arguments are:
- Park City is poised for strong growth in the coming years as a result of the “Vail Effect” bringing more skiers to the area
- Projections for overnight visitor growth quickly surpass the current bed base
- Accelerated development in the Canyons expedites generation of tax revenue for Summit County
- This will require a public-private partnership with Summit County to build key infrastructure to facilitate development
So, TCFC Is asking Summit County to issue a $20+ million bond, assess Canyon’s property owners via taxes, so that TCFC can expand the Canyons more quickly than they otherwise might. It also means that anything built via these bonds is owned by the County. So, Summit County would own part of a resort and could then pay TCFC to manage this infrastructure! In return for this, Summit County would benefit from increased tax revenue (according to TCFC’s presentation).
It’s almost so ludicrous sounding that we wonder what the real play is. Is TCFC asking for the special assessment, in order to later give that up, in order to get something they really want? Is TCFC finding it difficult to get workable financing? Or does TCFC just want to take advantage of a good economy and expand while they can?
We’re not sure. But we appreciate the Summit County Attorney’s Office drafting a legal memorandum outlining questions about this “offer.” Some of the questions that Chief Civil Deputy Dave Thomas brings up include:
- Why is the CVMA (Canyons Village Management Association) funding source (real estate transfer fees or assessments of CVMA members) insufficient to finance the construction of resort infrastructure?
- What are the financial risks to the County associated with establishing an assessment area at the Canyons? What happens if property owners within
the assessments? What are the legal ramifications of such nonpayment? Would the County have to wait 5 years to collect on any delinquency via tax sale? Would the County have to subsidize bond payments while collecting delinquent assessments? How will this impact the County’s bond rating? Why should the County take these financial risks?
- What are the benefits to the County of establishing an assessment area at the Canyons? Will the tax base (sales, property, TRT, Restaurant taxes) be enhanced?
- Would the redevelopment proposed by TCFC occur anyway without establishing an assessment area?
- Why would the County want to own resort infrastructure? Who would maintain the resort infrastructure?
- The CVMA has obligations under the Development Agreement for moderate income
housing, roads and transit. Does an assessment area constitute a bail-out of those
- Is it in the County’s best interests to facilitate economic growth at the Canyons, given the current 2.8% unemployment rate in the County, the absence of adequate moderate income housing in the area, and the increased impacts to the transportation system?
We would add one more question to that list:
Does the county really want to help build a 700 car parking garage at the base of the Canyons while they are preaching “take the bus”? It just wouldn’t make a lot of sense.
It should be interesting to watch on Wednesday as the council listens to TCFC’s arguments and debates the issues. It will also be an initial litmus test on where our two new county council members Glenn Wright and Doug Clyde really stand on these types of issues.