In February of 2007, the final site plan for the Dakota Mountain Lodge (now the Waldorf Astoria) was approved by Summit County. The only problem was, a set of power lines had to be temporarily relocated to make room for the development. Those power lines were brought right to the doorstep of the Sun Peak community and are still causing a stir.
According to Summit County Deputy Attorney Jami Brackin, the story starts in 2004, when the master plat for the Frostwood development was done as part of the Canyons Specially Planned Area (SPA) agreement. Frostwood includes what is now the Waldorf Astoria.
In 2004, when Lee Hindin came in on behalf of the DuVal Development Partnership to get development approval for the Dakota Mountain Lodge, Brackin said he realized that a nearby set of power lines would have to be moved. She added that Hindin had entered into an agreement with Rocky Mountain Power to have the lines buried, but that they couldn't do so for three years.
"The [Snyderville Basin] Planning Commission gave approval for the lines and said, 'Hey, as soon as they're able to be buried, they have to be.' That's tied to the development of the Dakota Mountain Lodge," Brackin said.
After the plat for the Dakota Mountain Lodge was recorded in 2007, Brackin said that parcel F-6, which borders Sun Peak to the south, was being amended through the SPA process to allow density on it. This was so the Canyons Resort Village Management Association (RVMA) could sell the parcel to pay for the development of the Canyons Golf Course.
The developers then came back to the county to ask for an easement to go across the F-6 parcel while they were waiting for the power lines to be buried. The power lines were later relocated to go across F-6. One of the poles lies just outside Sun Peak resident Bruce Cummings' backyard.
"Back in 2007, I was sitting in the house and noticed there were a couple of big poles laying behind our house," Cummings said. "A day or two later, there was a vehicle back there and some workers and we found out about the power lines going in."
Cummings said initially the guide wires for the power line were going to be placed in his yard. The lines were later moved back 50 yards diagonally from the original position, he said, adding he realizes that, living next to a resort, future development could be adjacent to his property, but did not expect power lines so close to his home.
"This was something that kind of slapped me upside the head," Cummings said. "I realize [the developers] have an easement and can do what they want. My problem is that we were never notified."
Jennifer Guetschow, Executive Director of the Canyons RVMA, declined to comment on the subject. Jeffrey Kuhn, who had worked for Lee Hindin and had acted as president of the Frostwood Master Owners Association, was not available for comment.
However, in an e-mail provided by Sun Peak Homeowners Association President David Dubois, Kuhn told Cummings and Sun Peak resident Laura Starley on Dec. 10, 2007, that he thought the lines could come down in 2009. Entering into the design phase of the line, purchasing copper cable, pulling the cable into underground ducts and energizing the buried line were all steps he said he believed could be completed by 2008.
Brackin said that, unfortunately, the county cannot demand of the developers that the lines be buried, as no formal document or agreement was ever made stating as such. If the Waldorf Astoria comes in for Phase II of development, the county could have the authority to require the lines be buried.
"When development applications come in for the Waldorf expansion or through the development of F-6, then we have more that we can do," Brackin said. "There's no document or contract where [burying the lines] is an obligation, other than Jeffrey Kuhn saying [so]."
Brackin said that with the expected completion of the Canyons Golf Course next fall, she thinks the Canyons RVMA may be interested in selling the F-6 parcel, which could lead to movement on burying the power lines there. Canyons RVMA controls the sale of the parcel while Summit County holds the deed, Brackin said. The RVMA does not have to pay taxes on the parcel and the county will deed the title straight to a third-party buyer in the event of its sale, she added.
Cummings said he and his family have lived with the intrusive presence of the power lines for years and he tries not to let it "ruin his life."
"At one point, I was thinking of putting my house on the market. In regard to the power lines, the realtor said, 'They didn't do you any favors.' I'd probably take a $100,000 hit because of the power lines," Cummings said. "I don't think anybody wants to take responsibility paying for [burying them]."
"I don't have a lot of tools in my toolbox to put the hammer down," Brackin said. "The county feels bad that this is the situation, but it is what it is."