Highland Flats development application still active despite land listed for sale

16-acre parcel could be sold for $4.9 million, but the property owners aren’t giving up on their project

The proposed location of the Highland Flats development near the intersection of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 40. Development firm Colbreen PC LLC has listed the 16-acre parcel it owns for sale at $4.9 million. However, the developers said they are not giving up on the project.
David Jackson/Park Record

The development firm proposing a large-scale affordable housing project in the Snyderville Basin has listed its portion of the parcel for sale at $4.9 million, but the developers said they are still planning to move forward with their application.

Highland Flats has received a tepid response from neighbors close to the site near the intersection of Interstate 80 and U.S. 40 since applicant ColBreen PC LLC proposed building a 27-building, 410-unit apartment complex in 2020. 

Yet just two months after the Summit County Council indicated the project faces an uphill battle in earning approval, the developer, which is a partnership between Breen Homes and the Colmena Group, put their 16-acre property on the market.

“We do still plan to proceed with our development application and hope (Summit) County will find a way to help us move forward,” development partner Adam Breen said in an email to The Park Record. 

He continued: “We believe, as locals, that we have been reasonable and willing to mold to what the community needs. We also feel we have worked diligently with the County for years with no progress. We are exploring all options proceeding forward. We hope the County will stick with us, however, we are now open to the option of selling to another developer as well.”

Jake Breen, Adam’s brother and co-owner of Breen Homes, is listed as the agent of the 16-acre parcel. The ColBreen property borders an additional 25 acres owned by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, which is not for sale. The Highland Flats project proposes a phased buildout across the 40 acres.

“All acreage is buildable with no wet lands, no major slope and no Geo-technological issues. All major utilities move across the lot frontage on Highland Dr. TWO major freeway and high entrances and exits are within 1.2 miles of land both east and west bound,” the listing described. 

A drawing showed the lot could fit up to 25 units, each around a half-acre in size. The site is currently in a rural residential zone, which has a base density of one unit per 20 acres. The asking price was listed at $4.9 million. The County Assessor’s Office valued the land at $790,370 in 2023. ColBreen purchased the site in 2018.

County Councilor Chris Robinson said he wasn’t surprised to learn the property had been listed for sale. He said the developers were likely “testing the waters” to examine outside interests while they decide how to proceed.

Robinson didn’t speculate about what type of buyer might be attracted to the property, but he said it’s unlikely for single-family homes to be built along the freeway — especially with the associated price tag. A developer would have to request a general plan amendment and a land rezone to increase the allowable density on site. 

For Robinson, less is more. He said the highest use might not be the best use, and developers shouldn’t try to multiply the number of homes that could be built on the site.

The 16-acre ColBreen property borders an additional 25 acres owned by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, which is not for sale. The Highland Flats project proposes a phased buildout across the 40 acres.
David Jackson/Park Record

Instead, they might consider taking an approach that characterizes the area as an exclusive neighborhood or promotes the nearby recreation amenities.

Robinson also referenced the $4 million grant Summit County awarded the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District in November of 2019 to purchase 68 acres of undeveloped land near Trailside Elementary School. Between two and four homes could have been constructed in the area, but the land was purchased to keep it as open space. Basin Recreation completed two new multipurpose fields and pavilions just east of Trailside Park in April of 2023 with the rest of the property remaining untouched.

County officials have affirmed the Highland Flats development would have to have “a compelling countervailing public interest” to justify the upzone and receive approval under policy 2.3 in the county’s general plan. The proposed location is meant to be low-density and promote open space as illustrated on a future land-use map for the area.

The development firm initially hoped the number of affordable housing units restricted to low-income levels would satisfy the requirement, but it received a negative recommendation from the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission in March 2021. ColBreen, in October 2022, considered shifting the proposal to focus on transition living and senior housing. However, the idea didn’t gain any additional support. 

Robinson maintained the Highland Flats project is facing many hurdles.

Members of the Planning Commission and County Council have expressed concerns about the project because of the location, limited road capacity and few public transportation options. Neighbors also created the group, “Say No to Highland Flats” to express their discontent with an October 2020 petition receiving more than 1,500 signatures.

ColBreen representatives have met with the county staffers for several work sessions, and they previously said they are patient, young and willing to wait to do what’s best for the land. The development firm could return with a revised plan, but no date has been set. The County Council has not yet voted on the application.

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