Uncertainty Over Coming Season Worries Park City Community

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SAM Magazine—Park City, Utah, July 30, 2014—The ongoing maneuvering by the two sides in the PCMR lease dispute has left the Park City community unsettled. The resort is the major economic engine for the town, and the status of the resort for the coming season remains uncertain. Legal proceedings currently underway may not conclude before the season arrives, prompting community leaders to urge the two sides to publicly guarantee the resort will operate.

Talisker and Vail Resorts (VR) have said they will not oppose a move by Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) to stay the court’s July 1 eviction order, if PCMR should choose to go that route, until the case is ultimately decided by the Utah Supreme Court. That could secure PCMR as the operator for 2014-15. But Talisker/VR would seek a high price for their acquiescence: they would ask the court to require PCMR to post a bond equal to the rent for the past three seasons as well as for the coming season. That’s an amount that could easily run to several million dollars.

PCMR, Talisker, and VR are preparing the legal and financial arguments for such a bond, as well as other issues, ahead of a court-mandated Aug. 15 mediation date. It’s likely the sides will not tip their hands until that date. The judge has stayed enforcement of the eviction until at least Aug. 27 while the two sides pursue a resolution, but could extend that stay through the coming winter season.

According to the Park Record, financial and real estate experts hired by both sides are investigating the lease value of the land and looking at the lease amounts paid by comparable resorts as they try to determine an appropriate bond amount.

Setting that amount is bound to be controversial. Talisker attorney John Lund said that state law requires PCMR to post triple the lease amount in a bond for the 2013-14 ski season and any in the future (like, say, 2014-15). Talisker also wants to include attorney fees and interest in the bond amount as well. The bond is intended to pay for damages in the event that PCMR’s appeal is unsuccessful.

Last week, Talisker, in a prepared statement, asked the judge to "hold a hearing to set the appropriate bond amount as soon as practical so that PCMR can quickly make their decision as to whether they intend to post such bond that would allow them to continue operating next season."

PCMR attorney Alan Sullivan said he hopes Talisker and VR agree with PCMR on "a reasonable bond to the court so that the 2014-2015 season can proceed without interruption."

Fearing that the two sides are still far apart, several prominent businessmen in town wrote an open letter to the various sides a few weeks ago, urging them to guarantee that the season will go forward. In support of that notion, Park City mayor Jack Thomas issued a statement this week urging both sides to compromise and “leave something on the table.” He implied that the Talisker-VR offer fell short.

"Any attempt to lighten the burden of litigation by narrowing the issues is positive and reassuring. Yet it remains unclear what Talisker/Vail is giving up by this action, and provides no solace for the thousands of area residents and businesses who continue to live in uncertainty," Thomas said.