Summit County taps planning veteran
A Hoytsville native tapped by Summit County as its newest planning chief said bracing for builders who want to develop in eastern Summit County already takes much of his time.
"The idea of having a lot of homes out in the alfalfa field just doesn’t sit well with some people," said Summit County Planning Director Don Sargent, who has replaced Basin resident Michael Barille in the post. "We’ll see higher development demand in the small communities on the East Side so we’re trying to ramp up for that."
But many eastsiders are against zoning proposals they say would limit how much real estate can be built on their land.
"The landowners feel like they want to develop it. They’re done. They don’t want to farm anymore," Sargent said.
A new program could allow rural property owners, who are struggling financially to preserve their land, to transfer building rights off their property to develop elsewhere in the county.
"It’s a simple, straightforward opportunity for landowners to transfer development rights off their ground if they don’t want to sell it to a developer, but still want to realize the income off the property value," Sargent said in a telephone interview.
By working with a land trust to order a conservation easement, landowners can also help protect farmland from development, he said.
Sargent began his current stint with Summit County three years ago after working for a decade in the private development sector as a consultant and real estate agent in Summit County.
Improving customer service at the Community Development Department is a top priority, he said.
"I have a perspective of the development community as well as a private planning perspective," Sargent said.
But he is not privately involved with any projects that could conflict with his duties as planning director, Sargent said.
"When I came to work for the county I realized those ties would have to be broken," he said, adding that his license to sell real estate is inactive.
Sargent insisted he has severed financial ties with a real-estate partnership he recently helped form in Coalville.
"I still have that partnership, but my role is silent," Sargent said. "I don’t have any financial interests in that business. I’m completely clean."
Sargent said government planning is more fulfilling than working as a consultant for private firms.
"Particularly, if it has to do with design, planning and environmental protection of our community," he said.
Sargent said his first planning job was in the Lake Tahoe region where zoning restrictions are tight in California and Nevada. He served his first stint as a Summit County planner in the early ’90s.
"I was involved right when it was very apprehensive with the demand that we were getting in the early 90s," Sargent said. "Things looked a little uncertain with what was going to happen with the planning department."
Today Sargent praises the integrity of county planners.
"The staff we have here, I think, are some of the most professional people I have ever worked with in terms of their commitment to the county and the integrity they have," he said. "It’s very impressive to me and I feel honored to be part of the team."
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