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Wasatch County

Mayflower Resort expected to make big strides in construction this year

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EX Utah Development LLC
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Progress on the Mayflower Mountain Resort should become more noticeable in early 2022 as a hotel, apartments and condos take shape. The developer has a new form of financing to thank for that, but not all taxpayers like it.

At a board of directors meeting Monday, the Military Installation Development Authority reported progress on construction at the Mayflower Resort adjacent to Deer Valley. 400 apartments could be ready by this fall and a hotel by June of 2024.

Former Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis is the county’s new liaison to MIDA. He said in such an unprecedentedly massive project, there are administrative challenges at this stage.

“The project is very large – both in the terms of acreage, the number of units and also in the value of properties,” Davis said. “Now, we’re starting to get things built. We’ve talked about it for over 20 years. Now that they’re actually happening - we have apartments being built, we have a hotel under construction, we have new construction areas all within this project area, but we’ll have a couple more hotels, and we’ll have many more residences coming up very soon. Now that we’re actually doing it, we’re finding out what actually works and what doesn’t work, and what we thought would happen and what actually happened.”

Development is phased out over several years. That includes a half-dozen ski lifts, three hotels, 1,600 residential units and 250,000 square feet of commercial space.

To repay bonds for building the infrastructure and ski lifts of the Mayflower, MIDA is using tax increment collections. This type of financing uses anticipated increases in property value within the project area - and therefore the increased property taxes people will be paying - as guaranteed money to pay off the bonds over decades.

That financing strategy is a tool that the Utah Legislature created in 2019.

“They call it a PID: public infrastructure district, and it’s allowed to be used for putting in infrastructure such as roads and things like that,” Davis said. “In this case, they’re putting in sewer lines, water lines, as well as the ski infrastructure that’s being started for the new ski resort. MIDA has the ability to collect the tax increment, and they can use that money to then pay off the tax infrastructure district. So, the money flows in one area, then goes in another area, then flows into the district to pay off the bonds.”

State Representative Mike Kohler represents District 54, which includes Wasatch County and parts of Park City. He said the promise of an eventual economic benefit was part of why he voted to allow Mayflower to use increment financing.

But he said some of the voters he represents disapprove of using tax dollars on more development or allowing the project to happen at all.

“Increment is an issue that I think got started based on an ability to pull value from the future, if you will, and there’s always somebody being affected,” Kohler said. “Some entities, like school districts, will say, ‘I should be getting that, and you just committed it for 20 years or whatever it is, and I won’t get it for that long.’ That’s the problem - they’ve pulled it. When I first voted for the Mayflower project to use this funding, there wasn’t anything there at all, and we were just trying to get something started, and it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own and grow. It’s just taken a lot longer than we expected.”

Kohler said he still supports the financing strategy because of the long-term payoff, even if the benefit to Wasatch County is taking longer to kick in than he hoped.

In June, MIDA approved borrowing $260 million in bonds. That’ll only pay for a fraction of the Mayflower, according to documents showing it’s ultimately expected to cost over $3 billion. Private investors will likely pay for the rest.

At Monday’s meeting, MIDA reported it had already received $170 million in bond money, and had spent $40 million of it on infrastructure and groundwork.

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