Wasatch County weighs small but symbolic Bonanza Flats contribution
Leaders could offer between $10,000 and $50,000 toward the acquisition
Wasatch County on Wednesday is expected to consider whether to contribute funds to the acquisition of Bonanza Flats, potential financial participation that seemed unlikely a month ago but eventually could come to symbolize the broad efforts to protect the land from development.
A member of the Wasatch County Council, Danny Goode of Heber City, requested a discussion about Bonanza Flats. The County Council is scheduled to debate a contribution on Wednesday, but it was not clear whether a decision will be made at the meeting.
Goode said in an interview on Monday he envisions the potential of Wasatch County participation at between $10,000 and $50,000. He intends to broach the dollar figures at the meeting. He will propose the funding be earmarked from Wasatch County reserves.
“It seems to fit with our vision . . . to keep our rural and agricultural character,” Goode said, pointing to a vision for Wasatch County that calls for protecting the quality of life and the rural setting of the county.
The range between $10,000 and $50,000 would represent a small portion of the funds needed for the $38 million acquisition, but a contribution from Wasatch County would likely be seen as having wider importance than the dollar figure itself. The 1,350 acres are located in Wasatch County, and it was not clear how leaders there would react to a conservation acquisition of land long coveted by developers. There was concern that Wasatch County would be leery of a conservation acquisition since land held as dedicated open space is taken off the property-tax rolls. Seventy percent of the land in Wasatch County is already under public ownership, according to officials there.
“We should participate when we have the ability and opportunity,” Goode said.
Wasatch County has never acquired land through an outright conservation acquisition. Officials instead have secured acreage as open space by negotiating with landowners through the development-approval process. Wasatch County has said the acquisition of Bonanza Flats for conservation purposes will eventually cost the coffers there $6 million in annual property taxes as a result of the land not being developed. There have been ideas over the years to create a golf-and-ski project on the land, which is located downhill from Guardsman Pass.
Park City in January reached a $38 million agreement to acquire Bonanza Flats from the owner, a firm called Redus, LLC. Voters in Park City in November authorized $25 million for the acquisition. Supporters of the acquisition are attempting to close the funding gap by a June 15 deadline. Government bodies, not-for-profit organizations, businesses and individuals have contributed, leaving the efforts approximately $3 million short of the $38 million early in the week.
Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, plans to attend the Wasatch County meeting on Wednesday, saying a contribution would be important to the efforts “no matter what the amount.” Fisher in early March told the Wasatch County leadership the fundraising did not anticipate requesting monies from that county.
“If Wasatch County were to contribute, that would add to this collective effort, which would be tremendous,” Fisher said on Monday.
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Park City leaders recently added a layer of protection to the City Hall-owned Treasure acreage overlooking Old Town. The Park City Council took one in a series of procedural steps that are needed as officials finalize the open space status of the municipal government’s most expensive conservation acquisition.