Summit County had a productive first quarter, officials say

Despite new leadership at the County Courthouse, the first half of 2023 has been off to a productive start

Summit County Manager Shayne Scott started at the County Courthouse in February. He said he now feels settled in and that productive work has taken place in the first quarter.
Park Record file photo by David Jackson

The County Courthouse welcomed new leadership earlier this year with the arrival of a new county manager as well as two recently elected county councilors with ambitious goals for 2023 – and the years to come.

To help achieve their objectives throughout the year, the Summit County Council adopts an annual work plan. That helps provide a clear list of priorities, to aid staffers in allocating resources to the various areas. This year’s plan was approved in February with officials focused on topics including, growth management and regional planning; local housing choice; transportation and traffic congestion; and environmental stewardship.

“It’s a two-way document. It’s the County Council saying, ‘These are the priorities.’ And it’s staff saying, ‘This is what we can do with the staff we have and with the time we have,'” Summit County Manager Shayne Scott said. “It’s important for us, when the council has a new idea, to ask if they want to add it to the work plan. It’s very collaborative.”

Scott, who started the job around four months ago, said it has been time-consuming and challenging so far with the sheer size of Summit County and the complex issues the community is facing from the Snyderville Basin to the East Side. 

County Councilor Canice Harte, who was elected in November, agreed. He joked that his evening routine now involves a lot of new reading material.

But now, with the first quarter of the year over and the second already underway, the county’s new leadership indicated they feel settled after the work they’ve accomplished thus far and prepared for what awaits.

The county’s approval of an option agreement with the Ure family to purchase their 834-acre farm in the Kamas Valley is cited as a major accomplishment for Harte and Scott. Though the acquisition has been years in the making, the men agreed it marks a pivotal step forward in the community’s commitment to maximizing open space preservation. 

It’s also the kind of project that inspires them to be in public service.

Scott also cited staffers’ work to address sustainability. Summit County last June joined the Utah Community Renewable Energy Agency, which aspires to bring 100% renewable electricity to participating cities and counties by 2030. Various county agencies, from lands and public works to community development and the Summit County Health Department, are united in the effort.

Addressing traffic and building smart transportation systems are essential, too. Scott said officials are striving to create solutions, such as the roundabouts proposed in Silver Creek and Kimball Junction, to help alleviate congestion and provide safer options. 

Harte emphasized transportation is not just intended to reduce traffic, but to help move people where they need to go. He praised the work of High Valley Transit, particularly after its expansion into Heber City. 

The County Council also plans to continue work on the Kimball Junction and Interstate 80 interchange environmental impact study as the Utah Department of Transportation considers three alternatives for the area; issue a request for proposal for a traffic intercept study to help strategize solutions for the S.R. 224 corridor and S.R. 248; start construction on the Bitner to Silver Creek connector road; complete the traffic study on the U.S. 40 and Silver Summit interchange; complete the S.R. 32 trail between Oakley and Kamas as well as begin the Kamas to Francis trail section; complete the Chalk Creek Road enhancement segment; and relaunch Summit Bike Share with in-house operations and marketing this year.

The end of the legislative session and the current stoppage of the Dakota Pacific Real Estate application will give the County Courthouse more time to examine other issues addressed in the work plan such as affordable housing. 

Scott considers housing a top concern in Summit County, and one that is a common theme in almost every topic from traffic to labor. He recently experienced the problem first-hand as Scott looked to move to the community after accepting the county manager position. He will finally move to the Snyderville Basin this week.

Officials have been working behind the scenes to navigate the issue from continuing their work to create a short-term rental ordinance, which could include regulations on where and how nightly rentals operate. Scott said it’s likely the County Council will vote on the issue later this year. 

The panel has also been in talks with the Park City Council about creating a regional housing authority across the Wasatch Back. Scott said more meetings have just started to take place to discuss the topic further, but it appears promising. 

Harte agreed. He noted restricting units to 80% of the area median income doesn’t do much in Park City, where that salary would be more than $100,000 locally. Harte said municipal and county leaders are coming together to find innovative ways of bridging the gap to affordable housing while managing the growth Summit County is already experiencing. 

“A regional housing authority would be a big win,” Harte said.

The County Council has also committed to completing a five-year housing assessment, developing a buy-back program for deed-restricted housing units in Redstone for the county to manage and rent to employees, converting housing units to households in documentation, and revisiting development tools through work sessions to see if they’re still applicable as part of the 2023 work plan. The county manager indicated several proposals may soon be addressed publicly.

Working with City Hall and other East Side communities on regional planning is important, too. County officials have been working to “break down silos” and initiate conversations with other municipalities to ensure everyone’s success. 

Harte said from trash pickup to sandbag distribution, there is always so much happening at the County Courthouse. And although the wheels of government often turn slowly – despite a capable team – Scott said it doesn’t always have to be that way.

He said he’s constantly considering new ways to improve efficiency and help achieve the elements of the work plan. Although it could take the County Council a few years to iron out the details of a regional housing authority, Scott said it shouldn’t. He was optimistic such a group could form by the end of the year.

Officials similarly hope the Our Summit community visioning project will be completed this fall with a presentation to the County Council, which will then provide direction. The community-wide effort began in January and asked residents to provide input about the future of Summit County over the next 20 years. The document will influence the county’s general plans and other policy directions.

Overall, Scott said he thinks Summit County is poised for success. 

“We always hear a lot of things that aren’t going right, but boy we live in such an amazing place. The state is uniquely positioned,” he said. “If you look at Summit County, I consider us the crown jewel of Utah. We’re in one of the best places on earth in where we live, in where we work, in where we shop and eat. We do have our issues, we do have our problems that we’re trying to address, but I am so grateful to live and work here.”


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