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Is the Mountain Accord Legally Binding?

Yesterday’s Summit County Council meeting on the Mountain Accord presented a number of interesting angles on the Accord. I’m going to try to cover a few of those today. Perhaps the most interesting, and overarching, was the discussion over whether the Mountain Accord process is legally binding. “Legally binding” can take many forms but a simple example would be if Summit County and/or Park City sign onto the next part of the Mountain Accord, and the Mountain Accord Executive Committee ultimately decides they want a tunnel (through the consensus process), are we legally obligated to allow the tunnel.

The problem seems to be that no one really knows if it is legally binding. Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas seems to believe parts of it likely are binding. He stated that given the structure of Mountain Accord, that Executive Decision Memos issued by Mountain Accord are likely binding. Yet, Laney Jones, Program Manager for the Mountain Accord said there was no intent by the Mountain Accord to have any of it (besides a funding agreement) be legally binding.

So, is it binding?

No one really knows.

The danger is that what Laney Jones thinks doesn’t really matter. As she has said multiple times, she implements what the Executive Committee wants. So, if the Executive Board ultimately wants a tunnel, and there are a few players (like Sandy City) that are willing to push the issue, they could sue Park City or Summit County to comply. That doesn’t mean they would win. Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas said he would counter that argument by saying Summit County did not agree to the original charter.

Yet, that would mean we are embroiled in another lawsuit. However, this time it wouldn’t be over a movie studio or a parcel of land. It would be a battle, in some ways, for our way of life and our ability to choose our own destiny.

It seems like a very thin tightrope we are walking.


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