A developer is pitching landowners on the idea of creating a new city in Summit County
Firm: Incorporation would be ‘like being an original investor in a new, successful tech start up’
A firm advertising itself as Utah’s largest master plan developer has been approaching residents in the unincorporated areas near Kamas and Browns Canyon with a proposition: Sign with us and we’ll pay the upfront costs to turn your sagebrush into a suburb — and we’ll split the profits.
The idea forwarded by Anderson Development is to convert more than 26 square miles into a new city. It would stretch from Browns Canyon Road in the north to Democrat Alley just outside of Kamas in the southeast, filling nearly all of the land moving eastward toward Peoa, Oakley and Marion.
The Park Record late last week obtained a document labeled a “strategic plan” outlining the proposal. An Anderson Development partner wrote in an email response to a Park Record inquiry that the document, dated Jan. 26, was no longer current, though he acknowledged the firm is still pursuing incorporation of some kind.
“We are talking to property owners around Garff Ranch to see if they have an interest in the incorporation of a new city,” said Stephen McCutchan. “… The written materials are also out of date and misrepresent the incorporation proposal that we are now working on.”
In a subsequent message, he declined to clarify how the plans have changed and said, “Everything about the written information that was leaked is inaccurate.”
Summit County Community Development Director Pat Putt said he learned of the plans thirdhand late last week and that the county hadn’t been approached by the developer.
“Was I surprised by it on Friday? I was taken aback,” he said. “Usually we have heard or someone has reached out to us to talk about it. We haven’t had any conversations.”
The strategic plan outlines areas straddling Browns Canyon Road as future sites for “urban village” zoning, which would include multi-story mixed-use and apartment buildings. The planners also identified the area west of Democrat Alley and approaching the Tuhaye gated community for the same type of uses. The proposed town center is southeast of Browns Canyon Road.
Putt said that the area known as Garff Ranch is a collection of 180 to 200 parcels of land that predate the county’s zoning rules. The vast majority are zoned for one housing unit per 80 acres, or extremely low density. He said the smattering of cabins, summer homes and some full-time residences all use septic systems and the road system is not maintained by the county.
“The reason it’s zoned the way it is is because the general plan specifies that growth should be directed toward areas that have the ability to provide infrastructure: water, sewer, roads,” he said. “This does not.”
The strategic plan indicates that a key advantage of working with Anderson Development is that it has the cash to pay for the infrastructure upfront, which could cost tens of millions of dollars.
“The costliest effort will be the design and construction of initial municipal services. Anderson Development will finance the design and the construction of the initial municipal services,” the strategic plan states. “…Ultimately, Anderson Development will help property owners sell their property for a substantial increase because of the city incorporation, new zoning and municipal services. After the sale, the property owner and Anderson equally divide the increase in property value.”
Putt indicated that any development would be required to provide the infrastructure to support itself.
“If they’re going to develop, of course they’re going to have to bring the infrastructure,” he said. “The question is going to be: From where? Since bringing it from the Snyderville Basin side would be very costly.”
The plan mentions the prospect of building thousands of homes inside the new city limits. It indicates that couldn’t happen without landowners seizing land-use authority for their holdings, and says that Summit County has a longstanding policy against suburban development.
Putt said it isn’t accurate to say the county is anti-development, but indicated that economic forces make traditional suburban development very unlikely in the Snyderville Basin. He said it was in some ways predictable that development pressures would be heightened in more rural areas in eastern Summit County and Wasatch County where land still exists that can be developed for those uses.
“Nothing surprises me anymore. Maybe I’m just getting old and seen it all,” he said. “There are a lot of development pressures regionally. We’re experiencing incredible growth. … I just think the area has long been discovered, it’s been desirable, people want to live here. Because of that, the housing market is extremely strong. Where there’s a strong demand, there will be a strong move to meet the demand.”
The local shortage of affordable housing is well documented, and housing prices continue to rise. Residents on the East Side who seek to extract value from their land are increasingly turning toward subdivision development as a means to cash out. From that perspective, the Garff Ranch proposal may be enticing.
Putt, however, said that he hasn’t heard from many neighbors in that area who want to see its rural, Western feel converted into a suburb.
“I have not personally been told by a lot of people the priority is to accelerate growth outside of existing nodes,” he said.
The developer’s strategic plan, however, speaks to at least one motivating force.
“For those who choose to do so, being on the ground floor of the development of a new Utah city will be highly profitable,” it says, “like being an original investor in a new, successful tech start up.”
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