Voters approve $20 million land bond | ParkRecord.com

Voters approve $20 million land bond

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

On Election Day Snyderville Basin voters gave tremendous support to a bond proposition for open space and trails.

About 3,880 people supported the bond, while 1,494 voted against the ballot measure. The proposition was favored by more than 72 percent of the voters.

Only those in the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District, generally people living on the West Side of Summit County but outside the Park City limits, will be taxed when the bonds are issued. Those who own averagely priced homes valued at roughly $652,000 could see their property taxes increase about $69 per year.

About $12 million from the bond will likely be used preserving open land and easements in the Basin. Some real estate prices in the Park City area are the lowest in years and supporters of the bond say now is an excellent time to buy property.

"Property values are probably at the lowest they are going to be in a long time so we should try and leverage that the best that we can," said Rena Jordan, director of the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District. "We really want to capitalize on getting some of the bigger projects done when the costs are at an all-time low."

Officials have identified some privately held parcels that could be preserved with bond proceeds.

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"But obviously it would not be to anybody’s benefit to identify those out loud because that takes away any possible negotiating leverage we might have on behalf of the taxpayers," Jordan said. "I can assure you there is definitely more than $12 million worth of potential acquisitions out there, so we are going to work very hard to make sure that it’s leveraged the best it can be."

Basin residents have already suggested some parcels that should be protected from development.

"We want to do everything we can to find the appropriate properties that fit into the overall community," Jordan explained. "The district starts at Quinn’s Junction and goes out to Summit Park, so what might be great in Trailside may not address the bigger strategy overall."

The Summit County Council makes the final decisions about which land to preserve.

Meanwhile, about $8 million from the bond is slated to be spent developing and improving trails on the West Side of Summit County. The projects could include new pathways along Highland Drive, East Canyon Creek and near Interstate 80 in Silver Creek.

Due to safety concerns on the narrow road, homeowners along Highland Drive have been requesting a trail for years. The current proposal would consist of two segments. The first would stretch along Highland Drive from the Interstate 80 underpass to Old Ranch Road. The second trail segment would continue along Highland Drive from Old Ranch Road to Silver Summit Parkway. Officials have estimated the cost of the Highland project at about $1.5 million.

"People have been yelling about that for years, about how unsafe it is for bicyclists and pedestrians," Summit County Council Chairwoman Claudia McMullin said.

McMullin said the plan is to use funding from the bond to increase trail connectivity in the Snyderville Basin.

"It’s to get people from point X to point Y without having to use the highway," she said. "It’s about getting people out of their cars When you go to Sun Valley or you go to Vail and you see the connectivity in these trails, it’s great."

A roughly two-mile trail is planned along East Canyon Creek from behind the Jeremy Ranch Elementary School to the I-80 pedestrian overpass at Kimball Junction. The estimated cost of the project is $1.3 million.

Proceeds from the bond could also help fund a trail linking Gorgoza Park with Timberline and Summit Park. And the proposed Bitner Road/Silver Creek Trail would parallel Interstate 80 along the north side of the freeway. Recreation officials also recommend that up to $500,000 be allocated for backcountry trail connections.

Snyderville Basin voters approved a $10 million open space bond in 2004. The funding from that initiative was used to purchase hundreds of acres of land at Kimball Junction and along State Road 224 that is now protected open space.

"I think it has tremendous economic impact. It’s why people want to live and work in Utah and particularly Park City," McMullin said. "People come here for these reasons Open space and trails translate to higher real property values."

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