Summit County Council rejects appeal over new hotel application for former Colby School
The Summit County Council rejected an appeal on Wednesday that would have allowed another proposal for a hotel at the former Colby School property on S.R. 224 to move through the permitting process, a move the applicant’s legal counsel deemed “horribly unfair.”
County Council members unanimously agreed to uphold Community Development Director Pat Putt’s decision to decline processing the new application, which triggered the appeal. Councilors spent about 30 minutes discussing the matter before making a decision.
Putt told Councilors the new application essentially represented the same project that had already been presented to the county and was ultimately denied.
“Both plans included lodging, a restaurant and fitness and yoga facilities,” Putt said during the meeting. “Even the parking associated with the project is in the same location. Based on those facts, I made the determination that it was substantially the same project that was part of the decision that the Council made in March. I notified the applicant that we could not proceed forward.”
Planning Commissioners last year approved a 15-room hotel, restaurant and fitness studios at the site. Residents who live in the three neighborhoods surrounding the site overwhelmingly opposed the project from the beginning, with many appealing the Planning Commission’s approval to the County Council.
Elected officials ultimately determined the project’s application did not go through the appropriate process and rescinded a conditional-use permit for the site. Summit County had originally approved the property, then the Snowed Inn, and related uses as a Class II development in August of 1985. The 1998 Development Code allowed for a change of use from a hotel to a school and it operated as a school until 2008.
“As a Council we try to be very analytical about the applications we review and the merits of each individual case,” County Councilor Roger Armstrong said Wednesday. “We ignore any public clamor and really dig into the merits and legal analysis. If we walk through this analysis, it similarly doesn’t work.”
Putt based his decision on a provision within the Snyderville Basin Development Code that allows the county to deny a development permit if the application does not meet the requirements outlined in the policy. The policy goes on to state that no new applications for the same property will be considered for at least one year from the date the permit is denied, unless the proposal is substantially different than the previous plan.
County Council member Chris Robinson supported Putt’s review, adding “I believe this application is the same as before.” He then made the motion to deny the appeal.
Bruce Baird, an attorney representing Hoffvest LLC, the owner of the property, said he was not surprised by the Council’s ruling. He said he suspected the five-member panel had made up their minds prior to the meeting.
Baird contended the Council’s original decision to rescind the permit was not based on the substance of the application, but rather the process it went through, meaning the county policy does not apply to the new application. He added, “I think a court will agree with me.”
“Our position was that they never even considered it substantively at all,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “They denied the prior application based on a procedural error they created. We followed what they told us to follow for three years and then they changed their minds.”
Baird said his client is evaluating its options. But, he added, “The odds on a lawsuit being filed are very high.”
Baird filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hoffvest, LLC, against the county in Summit County’s 3rd District Court in May following the Council’s initial decision to rescind the permit. When asked about the status of that suit, Baird said it has been on hold “while we have been waiting on this bull(expletive).”
“It simply seems like the county doesn’t care that they have treated my client horribly unfairly for four years now,” he said. “We spent massive amounts of money doing exactly what the county told us to do, and then they won’t let my client do essentially anything with their property.”
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Utah’s legislative general session is set to end on Friday, and if history is any indicator, there will be a flurry of floor amendments and last-minute changes for county officials to monitor.