Summit County secures seat on Central Wasatch Commission
September 2, 2018
Summit County will join Park City at the table as representatives of the Wasatch Back in the Central Wasatch Commission, earning a spot among other elected leaders from Salt Lake County to make decisions about growth and development in the central Wasatch Mountains.
Summit County Council members agreed to appoint Councilor Chris Robinson on Wednesday as the county's representative on the commission. Councilors Glenn Wright and Roger Armstrong were not at the meeting. Robinson will be joining Park City Mayor Andy Beerman on the Central Wasatch Commission board.
Summit County's representation on the board is significant because it means Robinson will be able to actively participate in conversations about the implementation of the ideas laid out in the now-defunct Mountain Accord. The accord was created in 2012 as a collaborative effort to create a cohesive plan for the central Wasatch Mountains to address growth and development issues related to the environment, transportation, the economy and recreation.
"Summit County has a strong interest in this not only because we represent geographical areas that are well within the borders of the whole Mountain Accord, but because we have a lot of experience that we can share with the commission in terms of land acquisitions and transportation planning," said Deputy County Manager Janna Young."
The Mountain Accord transformed into the Central Wasatch Commission to give the agency the legal authority to seek, hold and distribute funds, and enter into contracts on behalf of the participating stakeholders.
When the Central Wasatch Commission was created, the participating government entities agreed the membership would be limited to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights, Young said. Additional representatives from the Utah Department of Transportation and the Wasatch Back would be nominated.
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Park City and Summit County drafted an interlocal agreement that described how the Wasatch Back representative would be nominated. The agreement stipulated Beerman would serve a two-year term, then the county would nominate a representative after Beerman's term expires, with representation switching every two years.
But, when the town of Alta requested its own appointment to the board, the county felt it deserved representation as well. Young said Park City and Summit County's elected leaders agreed Park City would apply for an independent seat, and Summit County would serve as the Wasatch Back representative because it represents a larger area and regional perspective.
The Central Wasatch Commission board accepted Park City's nomination in early August.
"In addition to having a special interest in the decisions that are made that will affect our community, we also felt like we had a lot to offer, so it made sense to have two representatives from this area: one from the largest municipality and then one from the county," Young said.
The Central Wasatch Commission has been undergoing a significant amount of organization in recent months as it transforms into a government entity, Young said. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was hired earlier this summer as the executive director. The hiring of additional staff and the adoption of a budget followed shortly after.
"Members of the public and the involved legislative bodies of these entities were frustrated because they felt like we put resources into this agreement, but weren't seeing tangible results and a big part of that is that the organization was just forming," she said.
Since Becker has taken over, the organization has focused on redrafting the public lands initiative to establish federal land designations within the Mountain Accord area for wilderness or recreation. The Summit County Council nearly pulled out of the public lands initiative in 2017 because many said the county's interests were not being represented in the overall bill.
"The reason why it picked up steam again was they received indication from our federal delegation or someone in Congress saying there is a real interest in moving this forward," Young said. "I think the commission is close to approving a draft. But, the legislation alone is controversial. Everyone involved in it believes that it is the right direction, but is concerned about the details."