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Aspen, Utah is slated near Heber

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

For 17 years John Hines has lived at the site of what could become a new swanky ski and golf community called Aspen, Utah.

Now Hines claims the Arizona developer who has filed incorporation papers to create the ski town could force him off his land.

"This all dropped on us out of the clear blue sky," Hines said in a telephone interview. "We never dreamed they were going to try to make a city out of a small mountain with scrub oak."

The new town would be situated about four miles south of U.S. 40 near Wallsburg, according to Aspen developer Dean K. Sellers.

The high-end recreation community would feature alpine skiing "equivalent to Deer Valley" on 8,366 acres in the Heber Valley, Sellers said in a prepared statement.

"I’ve moved my family to Utah to live on this beautiful land with magnificent vistas to fulfill a lifelong dream where families are safe and strong, where education is of the highest excellence, and where well-paying jobs are plentiful," Sellers said.

The proposed town of Aspen is close to Park City and the Uinta Mountains and is 45 minutes from Salt Lake International Airport.

"I am excited to see the potential that Aspen, Utah will bring to our state," Utah Senate President John Valentine said in a press release.

A thick book Sellers filed with Wasatch County shows development plans that call for a range of housing types, a golf course, hotels and retail and commercial development.

"I’m afraid that we could be forced out," Hines said. "I can’t imagine all this high-tech industry in this little canyon."

Hines said he moved to the rural Stormhaven subdivision to escape the city.

"I’ve been running away from development all of my life," the retired Wasatch County man said. "What good can come from millionaires living on the hill above me two or three weeks out of the year?"

Sellers, 60, said he spent more than 30 years in Arizona brokering large residential and commercial developments and has the wherewithal to build a ski town from scratch, with backing from investors he wouldn’t identify. About 5,700 acres at Aspen were acquired from cattle ranchers.

County officials said they know little about the developer, who submitted his plans Nov. 8.

A law enacted this year makes incorporation possible without county approval. As the developer and major landowner, Sellers will have the power to nominate candidates for mayor and town council when Aspen incorporates.

"I heard something about a team of the best lawyers in the state working on it. Usually when you get enough important, high-priced lawyers working on a project, the poor people lose, don’t they?" Hines asked.

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.

Ski Utah spokeswoman Jessica Kunzer said the marketing cooperative trying to capture a larger share of destination skiers from Colorado first heard about Aspen, Utah last week.

"We feel that the ski industry is in a really healthy growth cycle right now and this is just another sign of how successful our resorts are here in Utah," Kunzer said Friday.

But Hines hopes to block creation of the new ski town.

"We’re in grave jeopardy of, somewhere down the road, losing our property," Hines said. "I’m afraid our property could be condemned."

Sellers claimed the majority of property owners within the area he wants to become Aspen, Utah, support the town’s petition for incorporation, which was filed Nov. 8.

"[Sellers] is not asking for tax breaks, special treatment or corporate welfare. He pays his own way," Thomas Boyle, an attorney for Sellers, said in a prepared statement. "This is the kind of development we should applaud."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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