Basin housing development, calling for 410 units, gets hearing Tuesday amid neighbors’ opposition
Neighbors appear overwhelmingly opposed, developer hopes affordable housing wins commissioners
A kidney-shaped swath of land in Highland Estates that is now home to the occasional elk could be transformed into an apartment complex with two dozen buildings and 1,000 residents or more if it gains Summit County approval, a prospect that neighbors vehemently oppose.
The proposal will head back to the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission on Tuesday, where it is scheduled to receive a public hearing. Information about how to access the meeting is available on the county’s website, summitcounty.org.
Commissioners will hear a proposal to build 410 residential units split among 27 buildings on 41 acres southwest of the U.S. 40-Interstate 80 interchange across Highland Drive from the Highland Estates neighborhood.
The developers own about 16 acres, while the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City owns the neighboring 25. Developer Adam Breen said if the plan were approved, the developers would buy the neighboring land and donate 10 acres back to the church, which he said plans to build a diocese and possibly a school or daycare facility.
More than half of the land is earmarked as open space, and about 80% of the units would be deed-restricted housing offered first to people who live and work in Summit County and restricted to those making a certain percentage of the area’s median income.
Plans show one-, two- and three-bedroom options, in addition to 50 townhomes.
The entire project is slated for the rental market, and about 21% of the units, including the townhomes, will be rented at market rate. More than 1/3 of the units would be deed-restricted affordable housing for those making less than $64,000 a year.
Breen anticipates the approval process will be an uphill battle, a prospect neighbors seem more than willing to bear out. There’s a Facebook page, an online petition and scores of comments on record with the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission offering arguments against the proposal.
Commenters expressed concerns that the project would overload infrastructure including roads and schools, potentially lead to increased crime, harm wildlife, snarl traffic and that it wouldn’t fit the neighborhood.
Planning commissioners at an October work session told developers the project would have to clear a high bar. That bar, adopted as policy 2.3 in the Snyderville Basin General Plan, is a requirement that no new entitlement be granted unless it provides “a compelling countervailing public interest … (that) cannot be reasonably satisfied without expanding one or more entitlement(s).”
The developers hope the project’s affordable housing component will satisfy that public interest. Notably, the project proposes 57 units for those making below 40% of the average median income, which was just under $32,000 last year.
Breen called it “an untouched market” and, indeed, most applications the county receives do not include housing units for those who earn below 60% of the area median income, or about $48,000. Other projects that have attempted to build housing for those making a liftie’s salary have had to rely on federal tax credit programs, which offers no real backup plan if the credits aren’t awarded.
Breen said that his plan is able to offer those affordable units without using tax credits because the land is priced so inexpensively, due to its restrictive zoning. The land’s rural residential zoning, which the developers are applying to change, allows for two housing units.
To Breen, that doesn’t represent the highest and best use of the land. But to the neighbors, that sounds just fine.
Dawn Pencil lives across the street from the proposed development and is a board member of the Highland Estates Homeowners Association.
“It’s in my front yard,” she said with a laugh, “not my backyard.”
She said the project wouldn’t fit with the neighborhood, and that the increased traffic would probably make it a challenge to get out of her driveway.
But she said the real issue is that it doesn’t fit with the plan for the neighborhood that elected officials approved as part of the Snyderville Basin General Plan in 2015.
In the general plan’s future land-use map, the patch of land proposed for development is identified as an area for very low density or possible open space. It is marked differently than the land immediately across Highland Drive, home to the Highland Estates neighborhood, which is slated for medium density residential.
“It was planned this way for a reason, for it to be low density and rural residential, to fit with the complexion of the neighborhood,” Pencil said. “… We are an established neighborhood. We have a community feel, a rural residential community feel. We have neighbors with horses. This was set up as an equestrian community originally, we have livestock, there’s horses. Highland Estates in particular is one … of the neighborhoods that hosts most of the working people in town.”
She added that the developers’ plan for affordable housing would hurt the type of people they say they’re trying to help, middle-class working families, some of whom already live in Highland Estates.
Breen said working with neighbors so far has been tough, but that he is open to improving the plan if given constructive feedback. He added that amending the general plan would be the application’s biggest hurdle.
The Summit County Council has the final land-use authority on the proposal.
Tuesday’s public hearing before the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission is slated to begin at 6 p.m., and is available to attend at summitcountyut.zoom.us/j/98189226475.
“My hope is that the emphasis is on protecting the environmental and wildlife qualities. What they’re trying to buy and what they have optioned is basically a wildlife refuge,” Leslie Miller said.
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