‘Aspen’ plan brings big brouhaha
A proposal that would create a new ski town near Heber called Aspen was met with fierce opposition from homeowners worried the resort would change the rural character of their neighborhood.
The high-end recreation community would feature alpine skiing "equivalent to Deer Valley" on 8,366 acres in the Heber Valley, according to Aspen developer Dean Sellers. The town would be situated a few miles south of U.S. 40.
Land for the ski resort rises from about 7,600 feet in elevation to 9,000 feet. The terrain is dotted with mature aspen trees, justifying the town name, Sellers said.
A Wasatch County man may have unwittingly derailed efforts by his neighbors to scuttle the development plan when he opted out of a potential opportunity to become a resident of the nearby Town of Daniel.
As residents of Daniel, almost 100 landowners in unincorporated Wasatch County would avoid being forced to live in the town of Aspen, explained Wasatch County resident Kasey Bateman, who filed the petition for annexation into Daniel last week.
Sellers reportedly joined 36 other Wasatch County property owners in filing a petition to incorporate Aspen, Utah on Nov. 8.
"[Then proponents] for the Daniel annexation offered landowner George Curtis, sole owner of his 19-acre parcel, preferential zoning if he agreed to sign their petition to annex his property into the Town of Daniel," the developer claimed in a prepared statement Monday.
But by accepting an offer from Sellers to purchase his property rights, Curtis helped nullify the attempt by critics to annex their land away from the proposed ski town, according to Sellers.
Still, Sellers did not include enough people in Aspen to justify forming the town, Bateman said, explaining that at least 100 people must live in an incorporated area.
Bateman countered that after suffering a stroke, Curtis, who reportedly cannot speak well as a result of his health problems, was not in the position to sign his rights over to Sellers for $5,000.
"It’s just so sad that they would prey on this individual," Bateman said, adding that Curtis has since re-opted out of the Aspen plan. "[Curtis] stated he wanted to stay in the town of Daniels."
So a battle brews between a developer with deep pockets and neighbors against living in a ritzy ski town.
"[Sellers] is just a greedy man who wants to make a billion dollars and ride off on his white horse while using us as stepping stones," Bateman said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "He said, in his own words, that he wants to own this town."
Melanie North said she lives near where the developer proposes building a road to access new slopes and a golf course.
"He’s building roads up on his property behind me," North said. "We’re just trying to stay a step ahead of him. If we’re annexed into Daniels then we’re safe."
Bateman expects the Daniel Town Council to decide on his annexation request at a meeting Dec. 3.
A new state law makes incorporating a town easier. Approval from the county is not necessary and Sellers would have power to nominate candidates for mayor and council when Aspen incorporates, North said.
"[Sellers] is just above the law," she said. "He wants to make up his own laws and have his own police department."
North said she does not mind Sellers developing his land but not at the expense of rural zoning codes that govern unincorporated Wasatch County.
"I’m not going to sell it to him," she said.
Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb said he could determine whether the petition for incorporation from Sellers is valid before Thanksgiving by ensuring the application complies with state laws.
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