At Thursday’s Park City Council meeting, the council hosted an audience of 25-30 property owners from Brighton Estates, the mountainside neighborhood near the city’s recently-acquired Bonanza Flat property.
Several speakers said they were frustrated and concerned that the city doesn’t listen to them and isn’t providing access to their homes that is both historic and legal.
In reply, city officials say they’re trying to be good neighbors, but they’re hearing conflicting voices from the neighborhood.
Park City voters approved a $25 million bond two years ago to help acquire some 1,350 acres in Bonanza Flat.
On Thursday, the Brighton Estates homeowners spoke during Public Comment. They alleged that city representatives have been dismissive or rude about their concerns, and they’ve been told that even at this point, the city’s management plan for Bonanza Flat is just in draft form. They denied the city’s claims that the neighborhood, with its two homeowners associations is fractured. The speakers said that on the issue of access and safety, they are unified.
Homeowner Billy DeMong said all the comments boil down to two basic issues.
“The biggest thing, that I think we’re all talking, and dancing around is winter access and historical access. I don’t think anybody here is looking to lay powder turns out in the middle of Bonanza Flats but they’re trying to use those established safe routes that really don’t utilize much of the Bonanza Flats preserved property. The historical parking at the Y, the access up 224 which we maintain. Those are all developed due to safety.”
Brigitte Meinhold said she was grateful that the city acquired Bonanza Flat, but she isn’t very happy with City Hall at this point.
“I think social equity is your big mission for this year yeah? Well it doesn’t feel very equitable right at the moment. We are your neighbors, we are part of your community and we would like to be treated as such. We keep coming here to these meetings because we are not being heard and it is time that we are heard and listened to.”
Meinhold said she and her husband have tried several times to talk to the city staff, and council members.
“My husband and I have tried many many times to speak with your project manager. To speak with you in fact. To get information and to learn more about what the plans are so that we can provide input and provide feedback. We have been rejected, we have been ignored, I have personally been insulted by members of your staff. My husband has been disrespected so many times that I can’t even count it. I am so disappointed in this process. I know that you are trying to deny us access via the roads through Park City we’ve had access for years and years and years through that way. You’re not going to deny us access to our homes.”
J.P. Gendron said the owners are intimately involved with the challenges of accessing the property in the winter. The city has ringed their Bonanza property with a fence, and some gates, but Gendron said that could cause problems.
“The task of getting in and out of our homes in the winter is challenging enough as it is with these barriers and fences. It’s not about willfully trespassing it’s about visibility and safely getting home. There’s a handful of us that work in the evenings. Service in Park City, Snowcat drivers that work at night as well. They come home regularly at night. During storm cycles its incredibly difficult to find your way. If these fences get partially buried and they’re not visible somebody’s going to get hurt. So, I urge you to reconsider this and take those down before somebody gets hurt, not after. I’m also surprised in the urgency to put these up so immediately without real foresight into the effect that they’ll have.”
City officials said that Brighton Estates property owners couldn’t decide on one representative who could sit at the table. Council member Steve Joyce said that resulted in a lot of confusion.
“We’ve had a lot of experience where we say, ‘what do you need for emergency access?’ and we heard Jeep Hill. Then somebody else will walk in and go I need this other road, and somebody else will walk in and say I need this other road, somebody goes I used to always go in this way and I’ve got a prescriptive easement on that. It’s kind of like trying to negotiate a house purchase with 40 people. I mean can you image that? You think you have a deal and then the next person walks in the door and the next person walks in the door and it goes like that over and over and over and over. Somebody will walk in and tell us that the single-most important thing is ‘X’ and the next person will go, ‘where the hell did you get that idea? It’s Y.’”
Mayor Andy Beerman said that, following the elation of acquiring the Bonanza Flat property, he’s disappointed by the discussions with Brighton Estates owners.
“We did listen. We made serious accommodations. We have tried to the best of our ability to address safety needs. We have not cut off any access. No access at this point, all the roads are still there. Yet continually, we’re approached and said we’re not listening. We need to be on the same page here, not listening and not necessarily agreeing on every point are two different things. To be good neighbors it takes both sides. So to get up, you know I’ve heard a lot of distrust, I’ve heard a lot of misleading statements coming from all of you and I’ve seen some hostility at times. We have tried to the best of our ability to be good neighbors but I think all of you need to look inside and figure out how you can be good partners on this.”