Bond has been set at $17.5 million for Park City Mountain Resort to operate on 2,852 acres of leased land for the 2014-15 ski and snowboard season.
District Judge Ryan Harris ruled that PCMR has until 5 p.m. Friday, Sept.12 to post bond, which would stay an eviction notice signed earlier this summer by Judge Harris, through April 19, 2015. PCMR can also post an additional bond in the amount of $19 million by March 2, 2015 for the 2015-16 season if the case is not settled by then.
If PCMR does not post the $17.5 million bond, Talisker Land Holdings Inc. can begin eviction on 2,852 acres of upper mountain ski terrain, which would effectively cancel the 2014-15 ski season at PCMR. Following the hearing, PCMR lead attorney Alan Sullivan wouldn't commit to paying the $17.5 million bond, saying that he would consult with his clients.
At a hearing last month, Talisker had asked for nearly $124 million for a bond, while PCMR recommended less than $7 million. Prior to his ruling, Judge Harris called both estimates “flawed valuations, not persuasive.”
By posting a bond that is held in trust by the court, PCMR gives financial assurance that it will cover any future damages that occur relating to this case during the appeal process. Talisker has said it would not oppose a stay of the eviction if a bond is posted. Talisker also released the following statement on Friday evening (Sept. 5):
“Talisker believes the uncertainty about the coming season must come to an end and obviously PCMR can do that right now by posting the bond in the amount determined by the Court. We respect the Court’s decision and will not be appealing it, even though the amount is below what we asked for and well below what Talisker will continue to seek in damages as the case proceeds. Especially considering the amount the Court has determined, any suggestion that PCMR and the Cummings cannot not post the bond is foolishness because PCMR generated over tens of millions in profits over the past three years using Talisker’s land without a right to do so. And of course, the Cummings themselves have considerable resources and should have no trouble at all posting a bond in this amount if they truly wish to do right by the Park City community. As for Talisker and Vail, we will be continuing to work on a long-term resolution to this entire situation, but right now it’s time for both parties and everyone else to focus on the upcoming season and making it the best one possible for everyone in Park City.”
The judge’s decision adds another chapter in the lease dispute that began in 2011 when PCMR officials failed to renew its 40-year, $155,000-a-year lease with Talisker – a circumstance that PCMR disputes. Once Talisker considered the lease to be broken, the Canada-based company made it clear it would offer the PCMR lease to Vail Resorts, which had already signed a 50-year with Talisker in 2013 to operate neighboring Canyons Resort.
As part of the Canyons lease agreement, Vail Resorts’ attorneys took over the legal defense of Talisker in the case, which is being heard in Utah’s Third District Court in Summit County.
Concurrently, Powdr Corp. and Vail Resorts have been undergoing mediation to see if a settlement could be reached. However, despite two extensions, the parties haven’t gotten to an agreement, the judge announced in court, adding he hoped that his ruling on the bond wouldn’t affect the ability to reach a mediated agreement.
Both PCMR and Canyons sit atop thousands of old mining claims from Park City’s silver boom days around the turn of the century. In 2004, Talisker acquired all the mining claims from United Park City Mines, including land under most of PCMR’s slopes and trails.
In May, Judge Harris ruled in favor of Talisker on a variety of lease-related issues, paving the way for an eviction notice. About that time, PCMR indicated it would appeal the judge’s rulings to the state appellate court. In June, Judge Harris issued the eviction but postponed its enforcement the parties underwent court-ordered mediation to find a settlement.
Powdr Corp. owns the base area and thus controls direct access to the mountain’s skiing and snowboarding terrain.
Local officials and business owners have been pushing the two sides to find a way to keep the resort operating as usual for the 2014-2015 season, particularly after PCMR announced that it would deny access through the base area it owns and remove chairlifts from the leased land if Talisker prevailed. Residents and officials have cited untold damage to the Park City economy if vacationers thought there would be an interruption in service.
Judge Harris scheduled a hearing for Sept. 30, at which time he will set a trail date.
SnoCountry.com will provide regular updates on this story as they develop.