Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Michael L. Hutchings and Bruce R. Baird Hutchings Baird and Jones PLLC

It’s Christmas time and anyone shopping for affordably-priced housing in the Snyderville Basin better not use Dave Thomas’ list of 1,838 "moderately-priced" homes. Nearly all housing in the Basin is "affordable" only to people who make much more than the moderate-income level. And since new properties can now only be developed on 20-acre parcels, there won’t soon be many additional homes selling for less than $1 million. Imagine our surprise when Summit County Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas produced the now infamous list of 1,838 units of supposedly affordable Snyderville Basin housing — housing with a value of $216,000 or less. Readers of The Park Record will recall that The List was loudly trumpeted as a rejoinder to a Federal Fair Housing lawsuit filed by our clients claiming that Summit County didn’t have a state-mandated plan for moderate-income housing. Mr. Thomas, after admitting that the county didn’t have such a plan (despite county commissioners’ previous false certifications that the county did have a plan), claimed that The List proved that the county was complying with the "spirit of the law." So we did a little checking. It didn’t take long for us to find out that The List was as real as Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop. Everyone now knows about the affordable "sport court," vacant lots and other "affordable housing" that The Park Record featured. Interestingly, while county officials have said that we were just "quibbling" about a couple of units and that our claims as reported in this newspaper were "ludicrous," they haven’t denied that the "sport court," other vacant lots, and homes of obvious value above $216,000 were on The List. Do they still think The List comprises "moderate-income housing"? Try an experiment yourself. Have your closest acquaintance with access to the MLS punch up the following listings: #9957412, #9958266 and #9956712. These properties are all on The List that Mr. Thomas claims were "moderately priced" because they were supposedly worth, respectively, $216,357, $198,276 and $187,980. These three homes were sold within the last six months for $360,000, $433,000 and $350,000 respectively – nowhere close to $216,000. We weren’t quibbling about a couple of units and our claims weren’t ludicrous. The List provided by Mr. Thomas, on behalf of the taxpayers and the county commission, was undeniably false and misleading. Since we first released this information, we have further analyzed The List. We have now determined that fewer than 384 of the 1,838 units on The List legally qualify as "moderate-income housing." This means that the information contained in The List that Mr. Thomas transmitted for you to the federal court was at least 79 percent phony. That’s right nearly eight out of 10 of all the homes on The List were not moderately-priced housing. Such shoddy research and unsubstantiated claims by county officials occurred at taxpayer expense! The county, if any of its elected or appointed officials had any sense of dignity or shame, should publicly and immediately retract The List. Intelligent, fair-minded public officials should solve problems and follow the law. Those at Summit County have attempted, instead, to shoot the messengers. They shot themselves instead. When we present our case to an impartial federal jury, The List will be our best evidence. Anyone Christmas shopping with Dave Thomas’ Affordable Housing List is bound to be disappointed.

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