Is Summit County’s Chris Robinson Playing Chess While the Rest of Us Are Playing Checkers with Mountain Accord?
During Wednesday’s Summit County Council meeting, council members Chris Robinson and Claudia McMullin were having a heated debate over whether there should be a connection between the Cottonwood Canyons and Park City as part of Mountain Accord. McMullin argued there was “no way in hell” that it should be allowed while Robinson asked something to the effect of “isn’t there SOME circumstance by which it MAY be possible we would allow a connection?” We believe McMullin clarified her stance with her original statement.
However, we began thinking about Mr Robinson’s choice of words and what he may really mean. We heard earlier in the meeting that having rail up Little Cottonwood Canyon, may require a connection to Park City to make it economically viable. So, for conjecture’s sake, let’s say that’s true. Let’s also say, for conjecture’s sake, that there are some powerful forces behind Mountain Accord. If the Little Cottonwood Rail has to happen, and Park City is needed to make it happen, and the backers would do almost anything to make it happen, what would we need to LET it happen?
What if somehow property tax equalization could be
ended drastically reduced and our tax dollars stayed in the Park City School District? Or what if a rail loop was built from PCMR to Kimball Junction to Quinn’s and back to PCMR for us? Or what if UDOT provided and operated 30 buses for use within the Snyderville Basin (with no charge to us)?
Would you trade a tunnel for any of those? Desperate people offer crazy things. Perhaps Chris Robinson knows something we don’t. Perhaps he knows just how desperate someone is.
So, is Chris Robinson playing chess while we’re playing checkers? Maybe. It appears that he thinks there is enough potential there to keep us playing the game. The problem we see is that the likelihood of Summit County actually winning the game is pretty low.
First, Park City has (or could annex) the land needed for a tunnel to the Cottonwoods. Therefore, their whims would be served first.
Second, the horse trade will likely turn out to be underwhelming… Something like UDOT agreeing to upgrade 3 buses to Natural Gas and giving us a 10% off coupon to Arby’s.
Third, the farther this progresses and the less specifics around what benefits us, the harder it will be to pull out of the Accord (if necessary). At some point, face-saving will put us in a bad situation. While we think we may have leverage in the future, that leverage could be compromised over time.
So, while we think Mr. Robinson may be playing a more intelligent game that we are, we still doubt the outcome. We’d likely prefer a nice game of tic-tac-toe instead. As they say, “Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
The Park City School District Master Planning Committee met on Thursday. The topics they discussed included:
- They received two responses for their request for a planning company to assist with the New Treasure Mountain School. They felt they received a limited response because of tight deadlines and the need to be licensed in Utah. The companies who applied were VCBO and IBI. Both are architectural firms that brought in an outside planner.
- $50,000-$100,000 is approved for a planner
- Committee chairperson Rory Murphy is concerned of a conflict of interest if the planner also bids for the construction work. No other committee members seem to share the concern at his level.
- The Master Planning Committee was trying to hire a communications firm to help educate the public on the upcoming bond (that’s the most politically correct way we can put that). Firms applying were too expensive and they’ve decided to rely in the planner to run meetings getting public input. They will then pay a local communications firm to work with local media to educate the public about the need for a new Treasure Mountain School (and a bond).
- The Committee has reached out to financial services firms (like George K Baum) to begin the process of selecting a financial advisor to help with financing a new school.
- The Committee seems to be trying to decide what big ticket items like a fieldhouse or baseball bleachers should be accounted for as part of the master planning process. There are items some items related to safety, like sidewalks that perhaps should be done now, even though they will be thrown away when Treasure Mountain is rebuilt, that perhaps should be done now. There are other items like fixing the gym floor in the high school that may warrant immediate attention. The School Board wanted the Master Planning Committee’s takes on what items perhaps should receive immediate funding.
During Wednesday’s Summit County Council meeting, council member Dave Ure said he would be surprised if more than a handful of Utah State Legislators knew what was being spent by them on the Mountain Accord. Mr. Ure, having been in the Legislature probably knows better than most what it being paid attention to.
It also appears that an appropriation measure of $5 million for Mountain Accord has recently been put before the body.
If you think your legislator may be unaware of the costs being spent on Mountain Accord ($22 million projected) versus other areas that are being underfunded, you may want to contact them.
Here is a PDF document describing expected outlays that can be sent to them (you can save this by right clicking on the link below):
Here are the various legislators representing the greater Park City area (click to email their office):
We are going to make an attempt to describe where we believe each of our Summit County Council Members stands on Mountain Accord. While we understand opinions are nuanced and we’re sure we won’t get it spot on, here is what we gleaned from watching the members debate the issue on Wednesday.
Kim Carson (Council Chairperson): It appears Ms. Carson learned a lot about Mountain Accord from her trip to Switzerland. She was able to spend time with Laney Jones, the head Mountain Accord consultant, who explained the details of the Accord. She appears to believe growth is coming to the Salt Lake Valley and the Mountain Accord may help slow some of its “spillover” into Park City and Summit County. She says she wants to continue with the Mountain Accord so that we can learn more about what it may be able to offer.
Roger Armstrong: It appears Mr. Armstrong continues to believe that the Mountain Accord will bring more day skiers to Park City and that is not a good thing for our businesses and community. He understands that the Cottonwood Canyons have challenges and hopes they can solve those. However, he does not seem convinced that there is much benefit to Park City or Summit County from the Mountain Accord. He stated he is not completely opposed to spending $150,000 to stay in the Mountain Accord process but wonders if there are better ways to use that money that would directly help Summit County.
Chris Robinson: Mr. Robinson seems to be the Council’s biggest proponent of continuing with the Mountain Accord. Unlike most other council members he could see reasons why we may eventually want to allow a connection between the Cottonwood Canyons and Park City. He appears to believe we should stay part of the process and continue funding the Mountain Accord. He also believes that we should build in “exit-ramps” though just in case we want to leave the Accord at some point.
Claudia McMullin: Ms. McMullin seems most adamantly opposed to a connection between the Cottonwood Canyons and Park City. She appears concerned that by continuing with the Mountain Accord they may assume that Summit County automatically agrees that a connection is fine. She said that if Summit County continues with the Accord that she would like to put in writing that they don’t support a connection. She also stated she is concerned about the amount of time Summit County personnel have spent on the Mountain Accord when they could be using that time to solve our own problems.
Dave Ure: Mr. Ure stated that he believes that the watershed that the Mountain Accord aims to protect will not be as pristine as it is today, even with the Mountain Accord. He stated that he doesn’t believe that growth will be curbed by the Accord. He also seems to share the feeling that this will have little benefit to Summit County residents. Finally, he feels Summit County staff involvement in the Accord has allowed them to educate the county council; however, he too is concerned about the time staff would need to spend going forward.
Note: if we have misunderstood and/or misrepresented an opinion above, or one of the individuals would like to expand on their feelings toward Mountain Accord, we are more than happy to print those opinions.
If you want to know where all your Summit County Council members stand on the Mountain Accord, it doesn’t get better than this 50 minute video. If there was a vote today on the Mountain Accord, we’re pretty sure it would be 3-2… we just don’t which side has the 3.
A Friend of the Park Rag sent us a link to a post by Carl Fisher of Save Our Canyons, regarding Mountain Accord. Save Our Canyons is an outspoken group on many things, including development in the Wasatch. Their post highlights their thought process on the matter and asks for input from the public
We’ve reproduced their post here, because their website is down.
MOUNTAIN ACCORD UPDATE; COTTONWOOD CANYON TASK FORCE NEGOTIATIONS
February 3, 2015 · by aschmidtsoc
For the past seven weeks, Save Our Canyons has been engaged in a negotiation to figure out our future participation in the Mountain Accord process. As I listened to discussions at our Board Retreat in November, I began to realize there was little, if any good, coming out of the Mountain Accord process especially for the environment, our water, but also for the many dispersed recreational interest that connect so many of us to this unique mountain mecca. Despite overwhelming opposition to a train and tunnels in our mountains from system groups (there was not majority support these ideas) and also for pushing ski area expansion and “One Wasatch.” I questioned, why are we still participating and began evaluating our options: I came up with two…
Leave the process because it was doing more harm than good.
Strive to make the process do more good (or at least include some good) than harm.
After numerous conversations with the SOC board and our partners with whom we represent on the Mountain Accord, I decided to give option #2 a shot, full well knowing that #1 could be an option down the road. The premise for me as I thought is, one of the greatest threats to this landscape, particularly the Central Wasatch, as I’ve found over the years is uncertainty. If we can remove this uncertainty, or significantly reduce it, we have a unique opportunity to remove the threats to the Wasatch. Over the years, the most threatened and volitile areas of the Wasatch reside on the lands owned by the ski resorts – Mount Superior threatened with subdivisions and roller coasters, Flagstaff by ski area expansion under the guise of avalanche control, Grizzly Gulch by One Wasatch, Silver Fork by resort expansion, Guardsman Pass by One Wasatch and the threat of year round vehicle access. Is there a way to put these increasingly creative threats to bed once and for all? The short answer is yes… but for what in exchange.
Before you read any further, the Mountain Accord is a public process and we want your input on how to move forward! Click here to view the Mountain Accord “Booklet” and 2 page summary of the Cottonwood Canyon Task Force negotiations then visit www.mountainaccord.com to submit your concerns, ideas and feelings about the future of the Wasatch.
We engaged with the Mountain Accord, the Cottonwood Ski areas, and elected officials to see if there was a willingness to negotiate the transfer of lands owned by resorts. All agreed to try, so in mid-December convened by a facilitator from the Mountain Accord, representatives from the USFS, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Alta, Town of Alta, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, the Outdoor Industry, and Save Our Canyons sat down for our first of four negotiations of what will go down in history of being called the Cottonwood Canyons Task Force.
While brevity is not my strength (context is important), I will attempt to summarize the negotiations, some 20 hrs of meetings over six weeks. First, the entire negotiation was predicated upon a rail and tunnels between Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood. This is how it was framed – go big, get big. Resorts want efficient, reliable, convenient and safe transportation and they believe that rail best for this. We disagree, but sweeping conservation gains of resort owned lands were not going to happen if buses were the option. Too, resorts want connectivity. This can happen over the snow and ridges in form of lifts (a la One Wasatch) or through the mountain via tunnel with fixed guideway… though rail has a WOW factor attractive to resorts. We, and by we I mean a host of conservation and recreation orgnizations and our members, have little if any interest in seeing trains in the canyons, however we also have little interest in seeing more development outside resort boundaries, One Wasatch and the other aforementioned (and yet to be dreamed) schemes to exploit the Wasatch.
Resorts also want more development to accomodate the influx of visitation they project they will see with the projected population growth in the region. Today, this development pattern, which some would characterize as “mountain sprawl,” is undesirable. However, with modifications of the ownership patterns we could cluster development to protect key recreation access points, vantange points, connectivity corridors and ultimately our watersheds. Some resort expansion is also requested as part of this. Snowbird further into Mineral Basin and Mary Ellen Gulch, Solitude a bit into Silver Fork, and Brighton into Hidden Canyon. With the exeception of Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton’s request are minor boundary adjustments bringing areas already used heavily by resort skiers into the ski area boundary.
The crux of the whole effort has been, their request for a train, 100 or so acres of base development and expansion into Mt. Wolverine/Mt. Tuscarora/Catherine Pass area. This point has yet to be resolved because of significant resistance particularly from SOC, and the Outdoor Industry represented by Peter Metcalf. As put by SOC co-founder and Wasatch Tours author, Alexis Kelner in Volume 2 of Wasatch Tours describing Tuscarora/Wolverine/Catherine Pass, “This tour was more appealing before ski lifts were thrust into Albion Basin, but the spectacular scenery compensates (somewhat) for the commercial intrusion. The Catherine Pass trail is the most popular route between Alta and Brighton in both summer and winter.” Alexis also noted, looking into his futuristic snow globe, that this area should be noted as “End. (Endangered) a notation used to warn tourers that an area has high potential for being absorbed into a commerical ski area opertation. Fair to say that expansion into this area in our opinion will jeopardize the whole negotiation.
So, what is the up shot in all this? Over 2,000 acres of land owned by ski resorts including areas like the Pink Pine ridge, Mt. Superior, Flagstaff, Days Fork, upper Silver Fork, Davenport Hill, Grizzly Gulch and Guardsman Pass area going into permanent protection (like Wilderness or National Monument) forever removing the threat of development. This of course is in addition to additional protection on other areas as we’ve proposed in the past. Over the years, to use Alexis’s terminology, its been common practice to add “End.” or “R.I.P.” to some of our favorite places in the Wasatch. It has not been very often, however, to remove those notations. This effort allows that opportunity. Time for another edition of Wasatch Tours, Alexis!
No doubt this effort will go down in history – my expectation is that it goes down in history along side the protection of Yellowstone and Yosemite, not like Echo Park, which sacrificed Glen Canyon to protect Dinosaur’s Echo Park, and the Yampa and Green Rivers. A unique and spectacular landscape for sure, but worth drownding the Glen and choking the Grand Canyon? We’ve worked to shape this outcome, now we need YOU to help us understand whether or not it is a good deal. The train and additional development are certainly undesirable, but the lure of conservation of valued private lands in the Central Wasatch is attractive. Send us your thoughts, make sure the Mountain Accord gets them too. The comment period begins Feb. 4. There will be more info part of this than what we’ve presented here.
Please let us know your thoughts, we tried our best through this process, but the ultimate protection of the Wasatch lies in the opinions of our community and validation of the ideas that we’ve carefully advocated for to better the Wasatch for today, and for tomorrow.
This is critical, we need your voice now!
Below is the Q&A session from Mountain Accord Meeting at Park City High School. It provides a good overview of the types of questions citizens have about the process and the way Mountain Accord is attempting to answer those questions.
We live blogged the Summit County Council Meeting on Mountain Accord. You should get a good feel for how various members of your County Council feel about the topic.
Please forgive any spelling mistakes. The meeting moved pretty quickly. In some cases below you’ll see just the first names of council members. For clarity, Roger is Roger Armstrong, Kim is Kim Carson, Dave is Dave Ure, Chris is Chris Robinson, Claudia is Claudia McMullin.
We received an email from a Friend of the Park Rag regarding our earlier article on a rail up Parley’s Canyon. We had said that County Council Member Chris Robinson’s explanation of the route being owned by the federal government, and the fact that it wasn’t at capacity, made sense why we shouldn’t expect light rail from the airport to Park City.
Our Friend replied:
If people want to dream of rail through the mountains we might as well dream of rail over the mountains. What’s the harm? As Daniel Burnham said:
Touche’. Perhaps we are too cynical. More importantly, we fear we are sounding too much like our father.
So, here’s to you. Our Dreamer. We hope you are right.