Homeowners prevent nearby trail
July 31, 2009
Three homeowners won after asking the Summit County Council to overturn a low impact permit that would have allowed a non-motorized trail to be built within 75 feet of their properties.
The meeting lasted nearly two hours as council members heard from the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, the appellants and an attorney representing the HOA.
Sean Hopkins, a homeowner in the Mountain Ranch Estates, located adjacent to Old Ranch Road, argued the trail was so close to his home, those using the trail would be able to see in the windows of his children’s bedrooms and one of the bathrooms. He told council members this created a "sudden loss of privacy" for homeowners.
"This is a privacy issue and a damning one," said Joe Tesch, attorney for the three appellants.
Not all homeowners agreed with the appellants.
"I specifically chose Mountain Ranch to live because it does have a trail system," said homeowner Patricia Kempton. "And most homeowners here do have trails that go in the common area behind their homes. When people go by, they wave. I think it brings the community closer. A majority of the homeowners want the trail to go in."
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County Planner Kimber Gabryszak personally viewed the proposed trail before the impact permit was approved. She said the decision to allow the permit, and not hold a public hearing on the matter as the appellants requested, was because the homeowner’s association at Mountain Ranch Estates complied with all 12 steps required for the permit.
"Holding a hearing for very few people would just tend to drag out the process," Gabryszak said.
Trish Murphy, trails coordinator for Summit County, said another reason for not holding a public hearing was because the appellants had already obtained legal counsel. She said she felt the homeowners were "ready to take it to the next step anyway," regardless of whether she held a public meeting.
Murphy said she walked the proposed trail and could not see inside the windows of the Hopkins’ home.
"We didn’t feel like we were invading anyone’s privacy," Murphy said. "We couldn’t see the color of paint on the wall."
However, council member Chris Robinson, asked Murphy whether she viewed the proposed trail at dawn or dusk when ambient light would be low and lights inside the home would make it "light up like a beacon."
Murphy said that she had only viewed the home between the hours of 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Council member Sally Elliott said she agreed with the planning commission and suggested the homeowners hang curtains to protect their privacy.
"I’m inclined to agree with the staff, that the criteria is justified," Elliott said. "Loss of privacy, eh, sorry."
Council Chair John Hanrahan disagreed saying he walked the proposed trail himself before the meeting began, and could see inside the Hopkins’ windows.
The council approved the appeal with a 3-2 vote.