Report by Jill Adler Imagine, if you will, an abandoned ski resort. No signs of life, no snowguns blazing; all quiet amid the hustle just a few miles away. This isn’t a tale on the Discovery Channel- not yet anyway- but it could be the story told among Parkites this upcoming ski season in Utah. While neighbors Deer Valley Resort and Canyons Resort go about 2014/15 like business as usual, the future of Park City Mountain Resort remains elusive.
After three years of hearings, motions and arguments, 3rd District Judge Ryan Harris upheld the eviction order he granted to Talisker Land Holdings, LLC. in May 2014; thereby reaffirming that the lease agreement between PCMR and Talisker had ended in 2011. The only thing left to argue was how PCMR would be packing it in.
“We have a right to possession of our property,” responded Talisker’s Howard Shapiro. “It’s the reality that a lot of tenants face. The reason this is a mess is because they’re pulling lifts out and not allowing access. They’re leaving a mess for everyone but that’s not a good argument to prevent the eviction. Every year they make millions off our property that they have no right to be on.”
PCMR has continued to say they want to work things out with Talisker and Vail Resorts (which has been granted rights to the land by Talisker) but that Vail doesn’t want to play ball- all they want to do is take the ball and end the game. However, PCMR refuses to walk away without a fight. They have threatened to literally pull up stakes and leave the land bare of all usable chairlifts and lodges. They would operate Woodward Park City – an aerial training facility – and teach beginning skiers on the lower portion of the land they do own. They would deny access to the base area, parking, snowmaking and water if Vail won’t let them stay. The result could cost Park City millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
“These are complicated practical issues; complicated more by motions filed last week,” said Harris about Park City’s motion to stay the eviction order. PCMR wanted the judge to use a "measured and sensible approach" in considering the effects the order would have on the town’s economy. They also need time to decide on claims for rent and damages, the manner in which the eviction would be enforced, and what structures would be considered fixtures that stayed with the land. “I’m going to sign [the order],” Harris ruled, “and then stay it so those motions can be heard.”
He set the hearing date for August 27, 2014, to determine whether to continue the stay pending appeal by PCMR and on what grounds. If the stay is extended, PCMR would be required to post a bond. Harris also ordered the parties to attend non-binding mediation by August 15 to try to work things out. Up until now, neither side has tried any formal bargaining.
PCMR’s appeal would probably hit the courtroom by early next year if nothing gets resolved. They will argue before a jury that the lease was a handshake, not a signature, and should continue. The jury might agree. But by then all of the major lifts could be extracted and the resort would be incapable of running for 2014/15. This is certainly not an outcome any of the parties would want to see. Mediation might be just what it takes to stay that result.