Proposal for military training facility shot down
November 23, 2010
Some residents living near the mouth of Echo Canyon said they fear that a private military and law enforcement training grounds would greatly increase fire danger in remote areas of North Summit where vegetation dries out in the summer.
The Eastern Summit County Planning Commission voted 5-2 against a proposal from Utah-based ChamTech Enterprises, which sought a permit to build the facility on a roughly 2,500-acre stretch of rangeland northeast of the unincorporated town on Echo. Planning Commissioners Tonja Hanson and Jill Houston supported the development application.
Commissioners Tom Clyde, Chris Ure, Ken Henrie, Diane Foster and Mike Brown voted against the proposal.
ChamTech officials said they would train mostly military and law enforcement personnel to be snipers. Those who signed up would also learn survival skills near the red rock cliffs just a few miles north of Coalville.
The land is owned by South Summit resident Tiny Woolstenhulme and supporters of the proposal stressed that the private training facility would not impact the area more than commercial hunting currently occurring near Echo.
"I do see parallels here in both of these uses of the land," Hanson said.
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However, rough roads access the area and Clyde said he was concerned about the costs of responding to fires and medical emergencies.
"You’re going to roll over an ATV or roll over a car or get somebody lost on a snowmobile," Clyde said.
With ChamTech poised to teach people how to use weapons, Clyde said he was also concerned about members of private militias enrolling in the training courses.
Hanson countered that she was not concerned about who ChamTech trained.
Company officials said information about those training on the site would be provided to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. ChamTech also claimed that specifics about some of the exercises could not be released to the public.
But ChamTech Enterprises partner Eric Hernandez has an extensive military background, ChamTech attorney Kristin Vazquez said.
"[Hernandez] has such amazing special ops experience and anyone who knows anything about special ops knows that he can’t exactly give a lot detail about that special ops experience," Vazquez said in a telephone interview Monday. "He doesn’t give information under the worst of circumstances."
Still, Echo resident Frank Cattelan said he was worried the proposal would increase fire danger.
"We’ve had a fire in Echo a few times and it was pretty serious," Cattelan said. "I just didn’t see where this would be helping the county at all."
Summit County was not the first community in Utah to reject a similar proposal from ChamTech. In August, the Duchesne County Planning Commission denied an application to build the facility on 640 acres near Duchesne.
Receiving a permit in Summit County meant ChamTech needed to show the project would provide substantial benefits for the community, Eastern Summit County Planning Commissioner Diane Foster said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Company officials said their clients would stay in hotels and hire local caterers.
"[ChamTech] showed some community benefits. But they were very small when you compared that to the potential burden on fire and EMS," Foster said.