An Air Force veteran and a real estate developer have joined the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission
Air Force vet, developer join planning body
The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission has two new members, one of whom has flown to the edge of space and seen the curvature of the earth, while the other has concentrated on more terrestrial endeavors, helping to develop big-name projects like the Goldener Hirsch Inn expansion at Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Inland Port.
Both say growth is coming to the area and that they hope to direct it in a way that’s beneficial for local residents.
Bruce Carmichael, 68, was appointed in October to fill the seat vacated by Canice Harte, who was the longest-tenured commissioner when he stepped down last year.
Chris Conabee, 54, was appointed in December to replace new County Councilor Malena Stevens.
Crystal Simons is now the only female Basin planning commissioner and Thomas Cooke is the longest-tenured, having been appointed in early 2017.
The commission provides citizen oversight for development applications in the Snyderville Basin, with mostly administrative responsibilities that include determining whether proposals comply with the Snyderville Basin General Plan and development code, the documents that set the rules for how land can be used.
The commission is seen as the second most powerful body in the Basin after the Summit County Council. Occasionally, it is asked to render legislative opinions about the appropriateness of a project, as it was with the recent Tech Center application.
Carmichael was a career U.S. Air Force officer who retired three years ago from a defense communications company. He flew — and commanded a squadron of — U2 spy planes that nearly touch outer space, where, he said, the sky above is dark and the curvature of the earth is plainly visible.
He said he sought a place on the commission because it’s an important way to give back to the community.
“I’ve obviously tried to be as involved as I possibly can, especially now that I’m retired,” Carmichael said in an interview earlier this month. “Coming from an experience like I had in the Air Force, it’s a career of service. Look, (to) finally settle down to a place where you’re able to live for a long time in one place, unlike the service … you want to help. And that’s probably the greatest motivation.”
Carmichael served on the Snyderville Basin Open Space Advisory Committee and credited county staffers for helping ease the transition to the Planning Commission, saying the new endeavor is akin to “drinking from a firehose.”
“The more you get involved in it, the more you realize how important it is — the whole commission process is — to ensuring that things happen and that the growth in the community is done equitably and in a responsible way,” he said.
He said his goals are to support the values and vision that the County Council has laid out and to work with the array of constituencies who live in the Basin.
Conabee lived in Park City for several years in the 1980s and moved back to the Basin full time in 1997. He describes himself as a real estate developer but says that doesn’t necessarily make him pro-development.
“Employees living near where they work, less traffic, less pollution, less carbon emissions, more scalable housing — I don’t know anybody that doesn’t welcome that,” Conabee said.
He drew a distinction between developments done well and those that don’t serve the community.
“Look at Lehi,” Conabee said, referencing its explosive growth. “I used to hunt pheasants in Lehi.”
Conabee boasts an impressive resume of statewide business positions, including serving as the interim executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority and on the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Board.
He said he was drawn to helping his community and said his experience with development indicates that it’s hard to have a successful project without community support.
“I feel like our population isn’t aware of the amount of growth that’s been entitled already,” he said, adding that lack of knowledge can contribute to animosity toward, and fear of, projects applying to come into the Basin.
“You have 1.4 milion square feet at the Boyer Tech Center, close to 1 million square feet at the parking lots at Park City, close to 280,000 at the base of Deer Valley. I don’t know traffic-wise, planning-wise, what does our future look like?” Conabee said.
He said he was inspired to serve to try to find answers for the growth he anticipates coming in the next 20 years that will “crawl (all the way) to Coalville.”
“What are our answers?” he said.
Conabee’s term expires in 2022, while Carmichael’s expires in 2023. The County Council usually reappoints commissioners who apply for additional terms.
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A public hearing regarding Summit County’s $50 million open space bond is scheduled Wednesday in Coalville. Officials hope to hear from those who live on the East Side.