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Summit County Council… How Many Times Must Citizens Speak?

I was speaking with a friend this week from Jeremy Ranch about development around Park City. She said, “yeah there is a lot of development but at least our hill is safe.” She is referring to a hill across from the Jeremy Store where the owner of the land asked for increased development rights to build a hotel, grocery, retail, condos, etc. When the topic was brought up before the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, approximately 175 Jeremy Ranch residents showed up at meeting at Ecker Hill Middle School to protest expansion of development rights.

Out of that meeting, and because of the response, the Summit County Community Development Department and the planning commission decided to table the concept of “receiving areas” which could have been the tool to allow the developer to switch from 66,000 sq feet of office space on that hill to 250,000 sq feet of Sandy in the Mountains. One of the ways they seemed to accomplish that was to put a section in the General Plan saying that no new entitlements will be allowed until existing entitlements are used up. Effectively I believe the Planning Commission and Community Development Department heard the cries of Jeremy Ranch residents and said something like, “you know, there is so much development already approved around Summit County, and these residents obviously don’t want development on top of what has already been approved, so let’s state in our general plan that we don’t want excess development until the existing rights are used up.” This is formally known as section 2.3 of General Plan.

So back to my friend. I responded to her glee over “winning back her hill” by saying — “NOT SO FAST.” I explained that the ultimate decider on the hill, vis a vis the General Plan, was the Summit County Council. They still need to decide whether they support section 2.3 of the General Plan, and from what I have heard I wouldn’t say that is extremely likely. What she said next was enlightening.

She said, “How many times do I need to tell these people what I want? Me and a whole bunch of other Jeremy Ranch people showed up at a meeting [of the Planning Commission] and told them what we want. Now, a few months later they don’t remember? That is bull**it. How many f****** times do I need to say the same thing?”

I actually cleaned up the language a bit, believe it or not. The point is that residents don’t distinguish between the Planning Commission, the County Council, etc. All they know is they showed up in numbers for a meeting and said they don’t want growth in their backyard. If this had happened in Pinebrook or Old Ranch Road people would have showed up and said the same thing.

From my viewpoint, there seems to be a structural problem with the process. I was at the meeting at Ecker. You could not come away with any other impression than that these people were angry and they did not want increased development. Yet, a couple of people (developers and real-estate from what I’ve heard) show up at a County Council meeting on the General Plan two months later and said, “I have concerns with section 2.3 and if we don’t allow entitlements it could be a major disaster for our area” … and somehow they are on equal footing with 175 people who don’t want it? What about the previous meeting at Ecker? Does the County expect all 175 to show up again and say what they already said? Do they have to show up for EVERY meeting of the County Council that pertains to the General Plan to make sure their opinion is not forgotten?

The obvious answer should be no, but unless they do, it appears their opinion may not be accounted for. I have sat in countless hours of county council meetings and I understand that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and what’s heard most recently tends to carry more weight. The problem is that it’s not representative of what people think. There has to be some way for the County Council to take into account what’s happened before it and especially with the commissions it creates and is responsible for.

I’m not sure if the Planning Commission is not conveying the message appropriately or whether it’s just too hard to do. If it’s too hard, and we continue down this path, I’m sure Jeremy Ranch will try to muster the troops for one last push up the hill. They’ll do everything in their power to prevent growth above what’s already been approved.

Yet, that will be wasted public input. They already mustered one out of every five Jeremy Ranch residents to tell the county what they want. Why do they need to show up again? I constantly hear that the public never attends meetings. Yet, they seem to do that at lower levels of public government. The public seems to attack problems early, as you would probably expect (and want). Yet, it seems that that strategy may not be optimal or capable of achieving what our community wants.

Perhaps residents should ignore the Planning Commission, Basin Rec, and all other sub committees under Summit County. Then residents can wait until issues rises to the level of the County Council before they gather their limited resources to fight the fight. I guarantee you that you would have read a different story in the Park Record if Jeremy Ranch residents hadn’t attended the Planning Commission meeting but instead waited for the issue to hit the County Council and then showed up with 200 people to protest.

It seems like an unfortunate, and inefficient, way to act. However, given the actions around General Plan Section 2.3, it may be the only way to ensure that your opinion is heard.

I hope the County Council finds a way to consider the opinions of the 200 Jeremy Ranch citizens attending the meeting. If it helps, here is the recap of that meeting. While I don’t think limiting new development FOREVER is a solution that most Jeremy Ranch residents would be in favor of, I do think they would support limiting it until we use up rights already entitled. I hope the Summit County Council will see it the same way and take into account the view of residents throughout the entire process.


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