Article courtesy of the Park Record.
The view from the top of the Dutch Lift at the new Mayflower Mountain Resort is expansive, with the Jordanelle Reservoir taking up almost half the view, Heber and Midway glinting to the south and peaks and hills rising all around.
But there’s a lot still undefined about that lift and the ski area it will service. Pretty much everything, actually. First, the lift doesn’t exist yet. And it’s uncertain whether there will be a lift there at all; there’s talk of moving it to the south a bit to improve access to another area.
The name, too, is in question. Developers have been calling that part of the resort the Dutch Pod and the larger area the Dutch Bowl in honor of the previous landowners’ homeland, but there’s no guarantee that will stick.
Looking out from the green hilltop on a summer day, maybe the biggest outstanding question is who will operate the area itself. Planners had long assumed Mayflower Mountain Resort would function as another base area for Deer Valley Resort, serving as Deer Valley’s de facto eastern portal.
Two years before the lifts might start turning, that still hasn’t been settled. There is no operation agreement in place between Alterra Mountain Company, which owns Deer Valley, and Extell Development Company, Mayflower’s developer. The 400 skiable acres spread over 1,000 acres of terrain would be as large as some other standalone resorts. And the developer isn’t using any of Deer Valley’s cash to finance the infrastructure — not the ski lifts and not the roads.
The two entities, however, did just agree on a 199-year lease for Extell-owned land that’s under several prominent Deer Valley ski runs. Kurt Krieg, Extell senior vice president of development, called the deal a “tremendous step forward in the partnership.”
Extell founder and President Gary Barnett said that lease allows skiers to access the runs on Deer Valley the same way they always have and enables the connection of the two resorts, but beyond that, the future of the relationship between Mayflower Mountain Resort and Deer Valley is not certain.
Todd Shallan, president and COO of Deer Valley, said that, regardless of historical assumptions regarding the future of Mayflower, there was never a definitive agreement in place dictating the project would operate as part of Deer Valley.
“The current landowner has the right to develop the property as they believe works best for them,” Shallan said.
Financing for Mayflower Mountain Resort is in place thanks to the involvement of the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA), a curious wrinkle in a story that began when a small U.S. Air Force ski chateau at Snowbasin called the Hill Haus was shuttered in the run-up to the 2002 Olympics.
Though MIDA is bonding for the money, Barnett is still guaranteeing it will be paid back. MIDA’s involvement enables a financing technique that leverages future tax growth to allow more money to be spent upfront.
“Wouldn’t be here today without MIDA, plain and simple,” Barnett said.
The questions around a project this large are in some ways inevitable as the land it will occupy has stood undeveloped even though it has been seen as a potential spot for future Deer Valley expansion for decades.
“It’s certainly a tough task,” Barnett said. “And the proof is that nothing like this has been done in 30 years.”
As Extell unveiled its plans for a massive new resort village, it’s clear it has the potential to reshape the mountainsides along U.S. 40 and around the Jordanelle. But whether it will be a third standalone resort in the Park City area, or join with Deer Valley, remains to be seen.
What’s in the plans
The Mayflower Mountain Resort covers 5,600 acres on the west side of U.S. 40, a massive swath of land rising up from the Jordanelle Reservoir about half the size of Park City.
Brooke Hontz, assistant vice president of development for Extell, described the planned resort village as a crescent moon with the largest ski beach in the world leading to a base area with accommodations, restaurants and bars.
There are plans for three hotels, though that number may change, with the biggest one housing the military recreation facility. That’s the replacement for the Hill Haus and the ostensible reason MIDA is involved in the project at all. The military accommodations will be a 100-room slice of a much larger hotel, with those rooms set aside for military personnel at discounted rates.
The Conference Hotel, as it is known, is planned to be eight stories tall and feature 388 total guest rooms covering about 615,000 square feet as well as about 75,000 square feet of commercial and conference space.
By incorporating the military facility into a functioning hotel, Hontz said, the project will gain a vibrancy that might be lacking during times when fewer military members are in town for some R and R.
In total, the resort is entitled to 1,560 residential units, another 800 in hotel rooms and suites and 250,000 square feet of commercial space.
It has set aside 95,000 square feet for workforce housing and plans a 68,000-square-foot recreation center that would be open to the public.
Plans call for five ski lifts, two magic carpet conveyors and a potential connecting lift to Deer Valley, but Barnett stressed those plans are tentative.
At the top of one of the green hills that’s a potential landing site for a lift, Krieg pointed out the surrounding contours on a map. The southern section is more advanced, steeper terrain, the middle section a future connection portal leading to ski-in, ski-out houses, and the north side fit for beginners and a potential terrain park, Krieg said. That would be a first for skier-only Deer Valley, if the two sides reach an operation agreement.
The ability to connect the resorts is provided for in the 199-year lease Extell and Alterra signed Aug. 1, Barnett said. But there’s no guarantee that will happen. Krieg said the two sides are engaged in an ongoing dialogue.
In minutes from an August 2018 public hearing, after which the Wasatch County Council approved the area’s master plan and amended the allowable density, planner Doug Smith said “the intent is to have an integrated development that maintains high quality Deer Valley type standards…”
“This area is intended to be a new base area for Deer Valley,” Smith told the Council.
What’s MIDA’s role?
While Wasatch County approved an overall plan for Mayflower Mountain Resort in 2018, the Military Installation Development Authority now has land-use authority over the entire project and a large swath of land surrounding the Jordanelle, including several other developments.
MIDA was created in 2007 to deal with about 550 acres of underutilized land on Hill Air Force Base outside of Ogden, its Executive Director Paul Morris said. That land covered four cities and two counties, Morris said, so MIDA was created to be the one overarching entity to streamline approval processes.
It became involved in the Mayflower project after it put out a request for proposals for sites for a new military recreation facility to replace the small chateau at Snowbasin that had been taken from the Air Force in the run-up to the Olympics, Morris said.
In 2012, the project area covered two parcels and 66 acres, including the first parcel Barnett bought in the area and a 26-acre parcel near Quinn’s Junction the Air Force had received in exchange for the former Snowbasin chateau. In 2018, the MIDA project area grew to include more than 2,000 acres, and the area is expected to grow once again to include all of Barnett’s holdings in the area, over 5,600 acres. Extell purchased 2,300 acres of land from Netherlands-based Stichting Mayflower in 2017 and has continued to assemble land holdings.
Though MIDA cannot levy taxes, it is able to capture and distribute taxes inside the project area, one reason for its expansion.
Morris explained all of the taxing jurisdictions, including the Wasatch County School District and the county itself, will continue to receive the same taxes on the land they always have, even as development is ongoing.
As hotels, businesses and homes start cropping up, the land will increase in value, generating more tax revenue. MIDA will keep 75 percent of that increased tax revenue for 25 years, using it to pay for capital improvement projects like roads and ski lifts. It will raise that money by selling bonds before the tax benefit has accrued, and Barnett has guaranteed Extell will pay it back.
In an unusual twist, one quarter of that tax increase — known as an increment — will be disbursed to the original taxing jurisdictions as the land value increases.
It’s important to create a critical mass of amenities to attract people to the development when it opens, Krieg said. Barnett said the financing technique MIDA has implemented will help in that effort by enabling upfront cash.
Krieg said the goal is for Mayflower Mountain Resort to open in the winter of 2021-2022, with plans for the first hotel to open in March 2022.