Summit County Council rescinds permit for hotel project on S.R. 224
March 30, 2018
The Summit County Council unanimously agreed on Wednesday to rescind the permit that was granted in December for the hotel project at the former Colby School property on S.R. 224.
Members of the Park West Preservation Coalition and Joe Wrona, an attorney representing resident Andrew Levy, filed two separate appeals on Dec. 22 of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission decision to grant a conditional-use permit for the project.
After a brief discussion of the matter — the topic had been addressed at length in the previous meetings — the County Council overturned the planning panel's ruling. The decision came despite an attorney representing the property's owners on Monday accusing the County Council of misconduct and violations of open-meetings laws and calling for the Council to recuse itself.
Jess Bost, a representative of the Park West Village Coalition, walked into the Summit County Courthouse on Wednesday with a sense of "loose optimism" before the County Council's continued review of the appeals. Bost, a Park West Village resident and spokesperson for the coalition, said she was uncertain how the Council would vote prior to the discussion.
"We are very happy," she said. "This is the outcome we were looking for simply because it is what we have been told as residents for the last 20 years. When I moved into my house, I didn't think we would ever be in the situation we are in today."
In 2014, the former Colby School property was acquired by Emma Worsley and Julie McBroom. Summit County 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 in the existing building from a hotel to a school and it operated as a school until 2008.
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Hoffvest LLC, operated by Worsley and McBroom, submitted a proposal to the county to construct a 55-room hotel project, along with a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, bakery and fitness studios. The project went through several iterations before a scaled-back version was ultimately presented to the Planning Commission for a decision.
The vote was 6-1, with former planning commissioner Chuck Klingenstein dissenting. Commissioners Canice Harte, Bea Peck, Joel Fine, Malena Stevens, Ryan Dickey and Thomas Cooke agreed to approve the application.
Seven public meetings, including four hearings, were held at the commission level about the project, with residents in the three surrounding neighborhoods overwhelmingly opposing the project from the onset. The former Colby School is in a rural-residential zone and is surrounded by the Park West Village, Brookside Estates and Two Creeks Ranch neighborhoods.
"I think that the County Council got down to the nubs of the problems," said Art Brothers, a Park West Village resident. "I'm glad we have a mechanism where we can say, 'Should this have been done this way?'
"It's likely that what will occur here will be seen as a stepping stone toward continuing to strengthen and support the process to determine what can be developed where," he added.
County Council members ultimately determined the project's application did not go through the appropriate process and the proposed uses are not allowed in the rural residential zone at the scale they were proposed. Council Chair Kim Carson said she concluded that the Class II permit, which no longer exists in county code, did not equal a conditional-use permit.
"In looking at the different codes, we came to the conclusion that it was a separate, stand-alone process," she said.
Councilors ruled that the property had most recently served as a school and the entitlements for someone to operate an inn at the site had expired or been abandoned under state law.
Bruce Baird, an attorney representing Hoffvest LLC, said he was not surprised by the Council's decision.
"It was fairly clear from what their comments had been how they were going to rule," he said. "It sounded as scripted as I have ever heard a County Council meeting. They had clearly made up their minds and I would have bet you $1,000 I could have written everything they said. I disagree with it, but it was easy to predict."
Baird said his client will take some time to consider what to do next now that the ruling prevents the project from moving forward as proposed. He said litigation is an "obvious option" that may be pursued.
Request for recusal
Baird said he was also unsurprised that the Council did not adhere to any of the demands he had outlined Monday in a letter to the county. In the letter, he accused the Council of misconduct, claiming, among other charges, that the Council members engaged in inappropriate secret sessions in violation of open-meetings laws.
The letter demanded the entire Council's recusal, along with an independent review of the appeals and a continuation of the discussion surrounding them.
Carson said Council members were confident they did not violate any open-meetings laws and felt recusal was unnecessary.
"We've reviewed many appeals and some have gone in favor of the planning department and others have not," she said. "We look at each on a case-by-case basis and go from there. We made a motion to deny the request for recusal of the entire Council on the grounds that there wasn't any reason to do that. We didn't see anything that had come up to affect our ability to be non-partial in any manner."