PARK CITY, Utah — The Park City Planning Commission voted 3-1 to grant the appeal of the approved administrative conditional use permit for the Eagle and Silverlode lift upgrades at Park City Mountain on Wednesday night. Park City Mountain Vice President and COO Deirdra Walsh confirmed that the lift upgrades will not be in place for the 22/23 ski and ride season following the decision.
Commissioners John Kenworthy, Laura Suesser, and Bill Johnson voted to grant the appeal on the basis that it was not consistent with the 1998 Mountain Upgrade Plan (MUP), which governs lift upgrades at the resort. Specifically, standards 2.3.1 and 2.3.6, which call for consistency with the MUP and proper parking mitigation.
Johnson was the last person to signal their vote and said it ultimately came down to the alignment of the Eagle lift not being consistent with the MUP. “This is a really tough decision, toughest one I’ve had yet,” he said.
They also called for a strengthening of the parking mitigation plan in the application. “Lease on the high school parking lot is eight days a month I see, and we have a seven day a week parking problem,” Kenworthy said. He noted that he’d like to see more use of public transit and the Richardson Flat lot.
Park City Mountain announced its paid parking plan at Mountain Village as part of the lift upgrade application. Park City Planning Director Gretchen Milliken previously approved the lift upgrades through an administrative conditional use permit. The 2015 King Con and Motherlode lift upgrades were approved through the same process.
The initial approval included 19 conditions of approval, which required the resort to meet with city planning staff biannually to discuss parking. It also forced PCMR to reinvest net proceeds from paid parking towards public transit and traffic mitigation.
“What we are specifically appealing is planning director’s authority to do this,” said one of the appellants, Old Town resident Angela Moschetta. “We maintain that not all criteria were met and therefore the matter should go to you — the planning commission for complete exhaustive review.”
Commissioner Sarah Hall moved to deny the appeal. Chair John Phillips supported denying the appeal, however, he does not have a vote unless the other commissioners are in a tie.
Those in favor of granting the appeal noted the need for more time to review the comfortable carrying capacity (CCC) numbers, which was the main topic of debate on Wednesday night and last week’s meeting.
The planning commission heard the appeal for the first time last week, and commissioners Hall and Johnson indicated that they wanted more clarification around the CCC data.
“The CCC for a lift can change over time for a variety of reasons,” one of the representatives with SE Group, Park City Mountain’s consultant, told the commission. “The advancements in ski equipment and ski operations technology have decreased the lap time, increased the number of runs per day and vertical demand, which decreased the CCC.”
While their explanation was enough to change Hall’s vote, others felt the CCC analysis was incorrect, and therefore the application should not go through.
“The lift upgrade locations were not within the lift upgrade alignments identified in the MUP, and the newly proposed lift upgrades do not go to the meadow, and the new proposal removed two lifts and left 3 Kings, rather than replacing 3 Kings as contemplated in the MUP,” Suesser said, explaining her decision.
Vice President and COO of Park City Mountain Deirdra Walsh said the following in a statement Wednesday night:
We are not only disappointed with the Planning Commission’s decision to grant the appeal of our previously approved lift projects; we are fundamentally concerned with, and confused by, the City blocking this significant investment in the guest experience at Park City Mountain.
As the country’s largest resort, Park City Mountain has 41 lifts – our goal is to upgrade two of them, with the purpose of reducing wait times in two popular spots and helping guests move up and around the mountain more easily.
Those opposed to these important enhancements to the guest experience have created a false narrative that the replacement of aged infrastructure with modernized lifts will draw crowds.
Chairlift tourism does not exist – skiers and riders just want to spend more time on Park City Mountain’s vast terrain and less time in line.
Investment in infrastructure is a critical part of the guest experience at Park City Mountain – and we are deeply disappointed that the City is now blocking that investment at the last minute.
We have made every effort in good faith to collaborate with the City Planning Staff and the community, engaging with the city in November 2021 – making this one of the longest lift upgrade approvals in recent memory.
This is especially disappointing given these lift upgrades are in accordance with a long-approved mountain upgrade plan and were recently evaluated by the Planning Director and her staff, who determined that our application met all the criteria of administrative approval.
In addition, the permit we were issued had 19 detailed conditions of approval to address staff requirements and community feedback.
We are considering our options and next steps based on today’s disappointing decision – but one thing is clear – we will not be able to move forward with these two lift upgrades for the 22/23 winter season. And that should be a disappointing outcome for everyone who loves to ski and ride at Park City Mountain.
Earlier in the meeting, Kenworthy said that one of the appellants, Old Town resident Mark Stemler, plans to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) regardless of Wednesday’s decision.
Commissioner Christine Van Dine abstained because she was not present at last week’s meeting.
Phillips said roughly 110 people attended the meeting online.
Planning staff will now prepare findings granting the appeal of the application within 15 working days. City Attorney Mark Harrington said the goal is to have that ready by next week. The decision can be appealed to district court within 30 days.