ChamTech hearing draws a crowd
November 2, 2010
The Eastern Summit County Planning Commission continued a public hearing on a controversial proposal for a training facility for police officers and soldiers.
Those applying for the permit claim the landscape in the North Summit area lends itself well to staging scenarios similar to those soldiers face in Afghanistan and the Middle East. But opponents question whether people training at the facility would accidentally start fires, pollute the water and create nuisances for neighbors north of Coalville.
Utah-based ChamTech Enterprises is seeking a permit from Summit County to develop the training grounds a few miles northeast of the unincorporated town of Echo. The remote property is currently rangeland held by Oakley resident Tiny Woolstenhulme.
"No one knows exactly what [soldiers] go through until you have been there," ChamTech partner Eric Hernandez said. "I know what these guys need."
According to county planners, training exercises on the property would "focus on in-the-field military training, including vehicle and sniper training, use of communications equipment, surveillance and counter surveillance techniques for small groups."
ChamTech officials said the Summit County Sheriff’s Office would receive a list of people who are training at the facility.
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Several people spoke against the proposal at a public hearing Oct. 20 in Coalville.
"I think that these people may mean well, but the property that they have chosen does not fit the proper use," Summit County resident Steve Peterson said.
Wildfire is Peterson’s biggest concern.
"I worry about people running around on four wheelers at noon on a hot day," he said. "These people are from the city. They probably can’t even take care of themselves, let alone contain a fire."
But Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said ChamTech has addressed many of his concerns.
Salt Lake attorney Bruce Baird represents South Summit resident Nadine Gillmor, who owns property near where ChamTech hopes to develop.
Gillmor is against the proposal, Baird said.
Baird said he was "stone cold insulted" by a video presented by ChamTech during the recent public hearing. The video displayed photographs of soldiers in the battlefield.
"To imply that the FBI and military can’t train their people is insulting," Baird told members of the Planning Commission. "I guess that’s like telling you that you’re on the side of terrorists if you don’t approve this."
One issue is whether those applying for the permit may use Sawmill Canyon Road when accessing the ChamTech site.
According to Summit County Planner Don Sargent, ChamTech has "met the access standard of the code to get from the public road to the property."
But allowing ChamTech to use the narrow dirt road would violate Gillmor’s property rights, Baird countered.
"There is no question that this access will fail when challenged in court," Baird said.
Meanwhile, others spoke in favor of the proposal at the hearing.
"I think if we asked everyone in this room if they believe in property rights, I bet every single one of them would say yes," Summit County resident Sam Aplanalp said. "I think we all need to remember how valuable property rights are I think a lot of questions have been answered and [Woolstenhulme’s] right to do what he wants with his property should be respected."
Woolstenhulme said Sawmill Canyon Road is already being used by commercial hunting outfitters.
"I’m concerned about my property and the use of it and I feel like I’ve got a right to do it," Woolstenhulme said.
Oakley Mayor Blake Frazier said he supports the proposal.
"I don’t see a great deal of difference between low-impact training and commercial hunting," Frazier told the Planning Commission.
However, Eastern Summit County Planning Commissioner Ken Henrie said he has several concerns.
ChamTech officials have not disclosed any contracts they have with government agencies to provide training, Henrie said.
"I’m not sure that you have the support of the U.S. Marshals Service or the Navy or the Army," Henrie said. "The military has their own property. They have their own trainers. They have their own programs."
Eastern Summit County Planning Commissioner Tom Clyde said he is "still troubled by a lot of things."
"It’s still a use that I’m queasy about I don’t have a comfort level with the site," Clyde said. "Frankly, I don’t know that moving to a different site would make me happy."
But Planning Commissioner Mike Brown said ChamTech "has a right to be here."
"I’m a big advocate of property rights," Brown said.
The next public hearing for the ChamTech proposal is scheduled Nov. 17.