A "general plan" may sound dull and bureaucratic, but in practice for Summit County it sets the stage for how future growth and development is balanced with protecting the local environment.
Phase I of the Snyderville Basin General Plan was approved on Wednesday by the Summit County Council, as were amendments to the Development Code. County Council Chair Chris Robinson said approval of Phase I of the General Plan was a "good milestone" but that it has taken a long time.
"One of the things we did in this General Plan is we subdivided the [Snyderville] Basin into smaller neighborhoods," Robinson said. "We have a description and status quo for each neighborhood and a paragraph that describes future actions that might take place."
The precise role of the General Plan is to be an advisory document in the formulation of the Development Code, as opposed to a regulatory document. Its mission is "to preserve natural open space and vistas, prevent suburban sprawl and promote our mountain resort community."
The refined definitions of Basin neighborhoods were perhaps the most highly desired change to the General Plan sought by the public during hearings last year. Residents of Highland Estates, especially, wanted their neighborhood to be separate from nearby areas such as Trailside.
Robinson said the county has a "bias" in the General Plan about keeping development out of "critical lands," which include areas with slopes greater than 30 percent, with geologic hazards or avalanche tracks, areas that lie within a 100-year flood plain, are jurisdictional wetlands or are on ridgelines.
"[The General Plan] is strong on the open-space component. We desire to manage future growth in a way that gives incentives to cluster it and to promote trails and multi-modal transportation, such as bikes and horses," Robinson said.
County Manager Bob Jasper said the county understands that citizens, especially on the West Side, are more concerned about maintaining open space than growth and that economic development should be focused on diversity rather than pure growth.
P. Christian Hague, a Basin resident who recently interviewed for a vacancy on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, attends many Council meetings and spoke about his thoughts on the General Plan and Development Code.
"I think staff has done a very credible job in getting into the code amendments so far in the General Plan," Hague said. "It's necessary to take regulatory provisions [from the General Plan] and get them into the Development Code."
Although the inclusion of critical lands in the Development Code was one of the only major recent changes, Robinson said the Code has changed over time and has "grown organically" with "an amendment here and an amendment there."
Robinson added that the county may bring in an outside consultant to conduct a "stern review" of the Code. He said he would like to see Phase II approved sooner rather than later.
Work has already begun on Phase II and will include chapters on regional planning and future growth, incorporating all of Summit County, Park City as well as sections of Wasatch County.