Wasatch and Summit Counties would benefit from more joint planning
Ryan Summerlin May 2, 2014
Over the years, Summit and Wasatch Counties have traded the distinction of being among the fastest-growing communities in the state. Right now, Wasatch seems to have the lead and is feeling both the positive and negative effects of dealing with rapid growth. Last year it ranked as the fastest growing county in Utah and ranked No. 21 in the country and that growth is especially evident along the border of Summit and Wasatch along U.S. 40.
That’s not to say that Summit County is losing ground. According to the most recent real estate figures Summit County is enjoying a steady upsurge in sales. And there is plenty in the pipeline with several major projects (Treasure, Bonanza Park and Silver Creek Village, among others) are all looming.
While the individual jurisdictions will have to wrestle with the specifics of those applications, the broader impacts on infrastructure, water and air quality and transportation will transcend boundaries.
The recently established Mountain Accord effort has already helped frame some of the region’s common issues. Representatives from Park City, Summit County, Wasatch County, Heber and Midway met Tuesday as part of the Mountain Accord to talk about common concerns. Transportation immediately rose to the top of their priorities. With residential units multiplying along the U.S. 40 corridor and much of the traffic heading straight toward Park City’s already congested eastern portal, it makes sense to consider some sort of jointly run mass transit system between Heber and Park City.
But the issues that bind Summit and Wasatch together go beyond roadways. Both counties are dealing with the increased volume of crude oil being transported from the Uinta Basin to Salt Lake City and a proposed pipeline route would have very different impacts on each. While the current preferred route, which is in the environmental impact study phase, would likely have a positive effect on Wasatch County by removing oil tankers from Heber’s Main Street, it poses serious concerns for eastern Summit County’s watershed.
Another shared planning challenge revolves around the proposed expansion of Deer Valley Resort from Park City further into Wasatch County. Park City has previously guarded access to Deer Valley from Wasatch County in order to capture the lodging and related tourist business generated by the resort. If that moat is breached, Park City will have to work more closely with Wasatch to regulate traffic and access.
And all that does not address the overriding concerns about preserving water and air quality. Pollution, of course, knows no boundaries and it would behoove both counties to work together toward ensuring their pristine mountain valleys don’t suffer the kinds of air inversions and water shortage problems that Salt Lake and other booming areas around the country have experienced.