Summit County secures 461 acres in lower Silver Creek for $10.4 million
February 9, 2018
Summit County's elected leaders closed on a $10.4 million purchase of 461 acres in lower Silver Creek this week, ending three years of negotiations with the seller.
The deal was the result of an agreement between the County Council, the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District, the estate of Florence J. Gillmor and the Florence J. Gillmor Foundation. The property is adjacent to the Triangle Parcel, located east of the U.S. 40 and Interstate 80 interchange.
"This accomplishes a lot for the county and Basin Rec," said County Council member Chris Robinson. "Florence Gillmor was a woman that didn't leave any posterity, but she had a strong conservation ethic and has made favorable sales to Park City and, now, Summit County. I think this is a win-win all the way around."
The purchase negotiations were part of an ongoing discussion with the Environmental Protection Agency, which considers the parcel a superfund site. The EPA describes a superfund as a contaminated site where hazardous waste has been dumped, left out in the open or otherwise improperly managed. Lower Silver Creek's status is the result of contamination caused by mine tailings, which are damaging the watershed.
The county has an ordinance preventing the development of superfund sites until the area is cleaned up or there is a plan in place to remove the contamination, Robinson said. When there is not a responsible party, the EPA has the authority to clean up the sites.
The EPA could have sued the estate of Florence J. Gillmor, but the purchase agreement gives the estate a liability release and covenant against legal action, Robinson said. He said the seller is paying the EPA to clean up the site and the county is getting protection as a buyer, as well.
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Of the 461 acres, about 350 will be deed restricted and remain as open space, along with the 112-acre Triangle Parcel. The Triangle Parcel was bought with the intent to develop. However, Robinson said the County Council now wants that property to remain as open space.
"Instead, we want to take the 112 acres (with development rights) we had there and develop it on the northwestern corner of this Gillmor purchase," he said. "We are moving it up closer to where we want it: by Home Depot. We didn't want to leave the land across the street as open space. We want the development all clustered up to the north."
About 15 acres of the new property will be earmarked as part of past commitments to Park City, The Boyer Company and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Robinson said. The remaining acreage could be used for projects to tackle affordable housing, public works or a future location for Recycle Utah, he said.
Recreational uses are also attached to the property as part of the agreement with the recreation district.
Ben Castro, chair of the recreation district's administrative control board, said the property will allow the district to create trail access to various open spaces in the area, serving as a connection to Round Valley and the Rail Trail.
County Council member Roger Armstrong applauded the efforts behind the transaction. He said it removes land from the market and prevents it from being entirely developed.
"We are protecting wildlife corridors and cleaning up the area without the county being held responsible for it," he said. "This is one of those rare opportunities where it worked for all the parties involved."
The $10.4 million purchase includes a reduction of about $1.5 million, which the Florence Gillmor Foundation agreed to pay to the EPA for the site's cleanup. The county was responsible for about $8.8 million, paid out of Basin open space funds.
The monies are part of a $25 million bond Basin voters approved in 2014. Of the $25 million, about $15 million were earmarked for open space purchases. Robinson said about $4 million worth of open space funds remain after the purchase.
The transaction comes as the County Council is receiving pressure from Basin residents to contribute to the purchase of the 158-acre Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road. The Summit Land Conservancy has secured an $8.8 million federal grant toward a conservation easement, but needs to raise an additional $3.2 million before March.
"This has nothing to do with the Osguthorpe Farm," Robinson said. "There is still plenty of money for Osguthorpe. We met with them about two weeks ago and they gave us a proposal, we gave them a counterproposal and they have not responded. This is not anti-Osguthorpe. We are still happy to engage with them anytime."