County fires back at developers Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff
With $40 million at stake, Summit County officials fought back last month against efforts by developers to convince a federal judge that the government has illegally conspired to keep poor people from purchasing homes in the community.
A group of attorneys teamed up last spring with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Utah Coalition of La Raza and the Disabled Rights Action Committee to sue Summit County in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. Responding to their claims, last October the Summit County Commission approved a moderate income housing report that identified more than 1,800 affordable units in the area.
"The plaintiffs are doing more in the media and we’ll wait until we have our day in court they seem to be making a media circus out of this whole thing," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.
But the affordable housing report lists a building lot with nothing but a basketball court, several vacant lots and homes that sold for several hundred thousand dollars as affordable housing in the area. Attorneys are scheduled to argue the matter in court on Feb. 23.
Richer defended the document during an interview Tuesday.
"It was simply from the assessor, all of those primary properties that were below a certain cut-off point. We’re not claiming that all of those are affordable housing units," Richer said, adding that properties with an assessed value of roughly $220,000 were among those listed.
On Jan. 4, the county filed a memorandum to combat a request from the plaintiffs that the judge bar the housing report from being used as evidence in the case.
"The [court] should not be misled by the frankly offensive epithets and hyperbole that distinguish [Summit County’s] arguments regarding the list of available housing units," documents filed by the county in U.S. District Court state.
Richer points to affordable units in Bear Hollow Village, Newpark Town Center, Redstone Towne Center and near The Canyons resort as examples of politicians’ willingness to address the needs of the working class in one of Utah’s most wealthy communities.
"People out in the Basin who 10 years ago bought a home for $350,000 it’s a $700,000 property today," the commissioner said about the county’s "explosive" real estate market. "If people had to go out today and purchase their own property I’m sure there are a lot of people that wouldn’t be able to afford that which they are currently living in."
Meanwhile, county commissioners are cracking down on people who have allegedly sold deed-restricted affordable units in Bear Hollow Village for more than the allowed price.
"These units cannot be sold for more than the deed-restricted amount," Richer said. "If someone has done that then they can expect legal ramifications we’re doing everything we can to make sure no one does that."
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The Summit County Board of Health has selected Phil Bondurant to be the Health Department’s next director, opting for continuity rather than a broad candidate search while the department continues to navigate the pandemic and its aftereffects.