County Council denies request for subdivision in the Basin
The Summit County Council narrowly denied a special exception request to reduce lot sizes in a proposed subdivision in the Snyderville Basin on Monday during a special meeting attended by nearly 40 residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The applicant, Milton O. Bitner Company, asked to develop 12 single-family lots on two parcels, or about 108 acres, located at the intersection of Bitner Ranch Road and Deer Hill Road. 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.
“This is tough because we have two different groups of properties and I greatly admire the Bitner family,” Carson said at the meeting on Monday. “But when we have dealt with special exceptions before, we’ve really looked at whether there was anything else that could be done. Is it truly a special exception? This one really troubles me because we are basically using it as a rezoning process and I think that puts us on a very, very slippery slope.”
The special exception request asked to amend the development agreement for the Red Hawk Wildlife Preserve, known as the Preserve. If a development is clustered, the agreement allows a reduction in lot size to “less than 10 acres in size, but not less than 5 acres,” according to a planning department staff report.
Clustering of the subdivision is supported by the Snyderville Basin’s General Plan and would be beneficial to the community because it would create more open space, the applicant claimed. The alternative would be to build the 12 units spread across a larger area.
“We came to this Council thinking we were doing everyone a favor,” a representative of the applicant claimed. “Having opposition to a request to cluster and relocate to make more open space is unique.”
County Council member Glenn Wright supported the request and its potential to provide open space benefits to the community.
“My intention is to approve the special exception with conditions,” he said at the meeting. “A condition I would want to put on it is that the public has access to open space.”
Residents at the hearing on Monday, and the hearing held earlier this month, raised concerns over the projects potential impact on viewshed, wildlife, water and precedent for future developments. An online petition opposing the subdivision had nearly 700 supporters.
County Council member Roger Armstrong addressed the applicant’s claims and admitted the county does try to find ways to increase open space through clustering. However, he said the downside to the special exception process is that it is intended to be something to remedy a situation where a developer has rights to a parcel, but is unable to exercise them.
“It gives the Council the ability to fix something that is otherwise inequitable,” he said. “I don’t recall that we have had one come through us that has been based on a contactable terms with the desire to change the terms of an agreement. We are being asked to do something other than what is permitted there.”
Armstrong said the applicant was not prevented from exercising their development rights. But, he said he would “hate to open up that door” of granting a special exception to fix a problem it was not intended to be used to fix.
“They asked us to make a value judgment,” he said. “We are getting special exceptions at an alarming rate and it feels like it is morphing into something that it wasn’t intended to be. I don’t think this is the way to deal with this. But, I say that with the caution because what you are wishing for and advocating for may not be within the community’s interest.”
After the Council rendered its decision, the audience erupted into applause and commended the County Council on its decision. A separate subdivision application was submitted to the Planning Department and will be reviewed by the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission now that the County Council has reached a decision on the special exception.
To view the staff report prepared in anticipation of the meeting, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/6946.
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