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There is a Distrust of Summit County Government When it Comes to Development

We’ve followed the Snyderville Basin planning process in great detail for a while. Granted, by many people’s standards across the Basin, who have been here since the 60s, 70s, or 80s, we’ve only been here for a drop in the bucket. That said, we were so upset with some events a few years ago that we began going to every possible Planning Commission and County Council meeting we could.

During that time, we gained great respect for many of our county leaders. While we don’t always agree with their opinions, a reasonable person can see that our leaders are generally good people who try their best.

That said, as you talk to people across the community, many don’t share our opinion. They look at what Park City and the Basin has become (in their eyes) and blame that on the powers that be. In some ways, that is also reasonable. We have a representative government for a reason. Not everyone can provide input or attend every meeting and they depend on the people they elect, and thus the people the elected officials appoint, to make good decisions.

Often, the squeaky wheels get labeled as “crazies.” Yet, many of the people we’ve talked with don’t fit that mold. Other times, they are called tree-huggers, because they never met a business they liked. Yet, a decent portion of people we’ve talked to are worried about property-owners’ rights. They want to know when they can build what they want on their land. They frankly don’t trust Summit County to ever let them do what they think is their fundamental right.

Perhaps the best you can say is that if no one is happy, maybe something is being done correctly. Yet, that view doesn’t lead us to where we need to go as a community. We need to be able to have open conversations that are backstopped by trust in our government. That trust isn’t something that will be gained back overnight.

We believe the General Plan Phase 2 discussions are a great starting point, though. Often times the public will come together to provide input on topics. Yet the moment a citizen concludes their comment, it’s the last time they ever hear of what became of their idea or concern. The party line is that “ideas are incorporated” into the final plan. It’s frankly a copout.

What we hope happens is that every idea or concern is recorded by the Planning Commission and the Community Development Department. We then hope that each is discussed and a written response to each general idea (there are bound to be overlaps) is made available on the county’s website. Someone wants a 100 foot statue of Jesus straddling I-80 like the Colossus of Rhodes, don’t ignore the idea, tell them that’s really up to UDOT but that it would be dangerous…so it is not being considered by the county. Someone says we need to stop all development now. Tell them there are 2.7 million square feet of commercial space and 3,100 units of residential property that have already been approved. There’s nothing that can be done about existing rights, just like they wouldn’t want the county to confiscate their house or land.

Regaining trust is about treating people with respect, telling them when they are right and wrong, as well as providing good explanations that they understand. As part of that, it’s likely the county will learn something too. We understand that a process like the one suggested above will take a lot of time. However, if done well it goes a long way to help people understand not only their concerns but the concerns of others too… as well as why decisions are being made.

The alternative is to listen to 300 people speak at Tuesday night’s General Plan event, write down some of it, incorporate a little of it, and produce a new draft of the General Plan. That will leave people wondering if they were even heard and more importantly why they even showed up. They’ll feel like they weren’t part of the conversation and they will learn nothing… except that the county is just like they knew it was.

This really is a good opportunity to change a number of impressions across the Basin. We just hope the powers that be seize it.


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