Compared to last October's hearing, public input on Phase I of the Snyderville Basin General Plan was low on Wednesday, though not without contentious development-related issues being discussed.
The public hearing was the last for Phase I, and the Summit County Council is expected to pass it soon, along with certain changes. One of the changes, in the Neighborhood Plans section, makes Highland Estates its own separate neighborhood.
Last October, many Highland Estates residents spoke out in opposition to their neighborhood being included with nearby areas such as Trailside, emphasizing their area's unique lifestyle. The neighborhood's plan did recognize that there are "commercial activities in the area that may be inconsistent with code" and that such incompatible uses will be addressed.
Home-based business owners with numerous vehicles in Highland Estates such as Randy Godfrey were forced to either comply with code or move their business. Godfrey said he had to move his business, High Country Lawn Care and Snow Removal, to Heber City.
Since the Highland Estates issue was essentially resolved, conversation at Wednesday's hearing centered on the county's goals for and limits on future development. The first issue to be discussed was the difference between sensitive and critical lands.
In the General Plan, critical lands are defined as those that include: slopes with a 30 percent grade or higher, geologic hazards and avalanche tracks, an area within a 100-year flood plain, jurisdictional wetlands or ridgelines. Development is not permitted on critical lands, except community-wide trails.
A change made in a later part of the General Plan, however, states that "development on critical lands is allowed at base density." Added language in the Development Code states that, if a development is legally allowed on critical lands it must be done in the "most sensitive manner possible."
During the public hearing, Jeremy Ranch resident Caroline Ferris expressed concern over development in the Basin.
"I'm appalled by the direction [Kimball] Junction is headed. We now look like every city in the state," Ferris said. "The growth pattern doesn't correspond with the goals and objectives of this General Plan."
Council member Claudia McMullin responded to Ferris, saying, "I don't want to be the tenant police. As a County Council, it's not our job to police who goes in a properly zoned spot."
Christian Hague said new language that would allow future mixed-use developments in the East Basin Neighborhood Plan could pave the way for a strip mall adjacent to US-40.
"There's nothing in [the General Plan] that suggests we ought to be protecting the US-40 corridor from adverse development," Hague said. "Is the county encouraging growth so we have a Ponzi scheme where we can increase tax revenues by increasing growth?"
Max Greenhalgh cautioned a particular change of language in the General Plan which went from the code ensuring that development is consistent with the General Plan to being "generally" consistent "with the spirit of" the Plan.
"All of a sudden, the General Plan has lost 90 percent of its credibility," Greenhalgh said. "It makes public input and the General Plan almost to the status of being not important."
The public hearing for Phase I of the Snyderville Basin General Plan was closed on Wednesday, and the County Council is expected to pass it soon, with some changes.