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The County Council’s Change to Section 2.3 of the General Plan is Disappointing

On Wednesday, the Summit County Council will hold a public hearing to discuss the Snyderville Basin General Plan. The General Plan defines what our community wants to see from development in our area. In the original General Plan there was a section 2.3 that simply said:

“Do not approve any new entitlements beyond base zoning until such time that existing entitlements are significantly exhausted.”

The intent behind this was that the Community Development Department and Planning Commission felt there too many existing entitlements in the Basin that were unbuilt. It appeared they wanted to ensure that we didn’t exacerbate our current problems like meeting transportation needs and over building the wrong things.

When the plan was sent to the County Council for review they tore this section apart. Comments were made about “unintended consequences” and what if’s, like what if we wanted to build affordable housing or what if we wanted to solve our transportation problems, were brought up.

Hence, section 2.3 has now been stripped of any meaning. It now reads:

“Do not approve any new entitlements beyond base zoning without first studying, analyzing, and determining whether or not:

  1. a compelling community need or public interest exists to justify a proposed change to existing development entitlement(s) or rezone.
  2. the potential community impacts of any proposal to increase existing entitlement(s) or rezone can be mitigated.
  3. any proposal to increase existing entitlement(s) is consistent with the Snyderville Basin General Plan’s Future Land Use Maps.”

Section 2.3’s original language seemed to say something… let’s limit new development until we get a hold on what’s been promised but not built. The new language seems to provide a concrete path toward upzoning property.

Let me provide an example of property near Bitner Road that’s currently zoned Rural Residential. This location is at the east end and across I-80 from the Swaner nature preserve. Rural residential zoning generally means that you can have 1 home per 20 acres. Now, let’s say I wanted to to put in a Chiles, a bank, and a gas station there. How would I do it via language in 2.3.

  1. I would work with the Community Development Department to make a plan. As they do with anything submitted, they would study it.
  2. In and of itself, my plan already provides a community benefit, which is increased tax dollars to the people of Summit County. I might even throw in a few acres of open space.
  3. There would be traffic issues, but like with every development in the area, I would pay to mitigate them.
  4. I would check the land use maps and see that the future land use for this area says Mixed Use – Neighborhood commercial. Neighborhood commercial has a plethora of commercial opportunities like the ones mentioned above.

That plan took me almost 3 minutes to come up with. Perhaps the Bitner Rd property is under some other legal agreement and if so you could interchange Bitner Rd with many other places in the Basin. What could a professional developer do with this type of opportunity? Now, to be fair, this plan would have to go through the Planning Commission and maybe the County Council, so it’s not a rubber stamp. That said, we can’t always count on the same type of individuals we have now in places of power to think logically and act in our best interests. We shouldn’t have to depend on people. We should be able to depend on laws.

Contrast that with the original section 2.3. This upzone would not take place for a while (maybe never). The only path to upzoning would be to try and get the County to go against it’s people’s wishes expressed in the General Plan. It’s far less likely it would happen.

That’s why I wish the essence of section 2.3 had been kept as envisioned by the Planning Commission. Sure, it needed some tweaking but it didn’t need its heart ripped out.

If the new 2.3 is the only alternative, perhaps we just need to scrap it.





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