A Basin church prays for development vote
Roughly a week after the Summit County Council denied a special exception request to reduce lot sizes in a proposed subdivision in the Snyderville Basin, the Council is scheduled to review another special exception request application on Nov. 29.
Mountain Life Church is asking the County Council for permission to significantly expand its current operations to the open space surrounding its site on Silver Creek Road. The special exception is requesting relief from the open space obligation that is required under the church’s development agreement.
The proposed expansion would include an additional 12,446 square feet of capacity and 420 parking spaces, a report states. The County Council is scheduled to explore the request on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 4:45 p.m. The issue is listed on the agenda as a work session item. No formal action is expected to be taken.
Steve White, executive pastor of Mountain Life Church, said the congregation has reached its capacity in its current footprint. He said Mountain Life Church serves about 2,000 residents, with just under 800 in average weekly attendance at the two services on Sunday.
“Our congregation has continued to grow since its inception and we are now constrained in our current facility,” he said. “We simply don’t have the square footage to safely and comfortably handle as many that are coming in and we are looking to expand the footprint.”
The Mountain Life Church development agreement was originally approved in December of 2000. The agreement authorized a 17,100-square-foot primary building for “worship, instruction and related social activities, parking for 138 vehicles and outdoor courtyard and walkaways,” a report states. The community benefits that were established at the time included wetland mitigation and enhancements, a play field for limited public use and restricted open space.
The development agreement has expired, but it required “all community benefits and obligations to remain in effect and run with the land,” according to a report.
“The open space that was part of the original development agreement is a really small space and we have since purchased another 29 acres of property,” White said. “We are now sitting on 40 acres where originally it was 11 acres. We want to expand to handle the continued growth and, if approved, we will end up with more than we lose. This allows us to serve our community better and we end up with a better facility and better property.”
A special exception is one of the only avenues available to achieve the additional capacity, and the expired development agreement presents limitations that the county’s planning department does not have the authority to override, White said.
“We are confident with everything from the wetland, traffic impact and parking studies we have done that say this is the great way to go,” he said. “We are comfortable that this is a serious issue and confident they will move it forward OK.”
A preliminary review of the proposal by county staffers indicates that even if the open space restriction is released, a conditional-use permit could not be approved because it would not meet requirements under the Snyderville Basin Development Code, according to a staff report.
The County Council is scheduled to review the special exception request roughly a week after denying a similar request. The applicant of the other request, Milton O. Bitner Company, requested the special exception to reduce the minimum lot size requirement from 5 acres to 2.5 acres.
The vote was split, 2-2, with County Council members Glenn Wright and Chris Robinson voting in favor of the special exception. Council members Kim Carson and Roger Armstrong dissented. Councilor Doug Clyde was not present.
In an interview with the Park Record on Monday, Armstrong said the primary purpose of a special exception is to rectify a situation where a landowner or developer has certain rights but is not able to exercise them because of extenuating circumstances such as property configuration.
“My concern is if we sit in judgment of what is good and bad we start bumping up against arbitrary and capricious decisions,” he said.
Armstrong said it is time for the County Council to take a step back and discuss what the agreed intention of special exceptions is.
“We have to have that conversation about what we want them to be used for and take a look at the way the provisions are worded,” he said. “We need to decide whether that is the way we want them or do we want to put more meat on them to establish when they can be used and not used.”
If the special exception is granted, Mountain Life Church plans to submit an application for a conditional-use permit for the expansion of the church and parking areas. The applicant would also have to file a variance request from the Board of Adjustment for relief of a required 40-foot wetland setback for the parking areas and some of the building expansion areas, according to a report.