East Side zoning talks turn into shouts
November 24, 2015
Tempers flared and accusations were hurled during a recent Eastern Summit County Planning Commission hearing about the new zoning districts that are being considered for the East Side.
The hearing was tagged as an opportunity for commissioners to potentially forward a recommendation to the Summit County Council. However, the hearing was continued until Dec. 3.
Several residents accused commissioners, particularly Ken Henrie, of discriminating against certain areas like Chalk Creek because of vested interests.
"The reality of it is you are making decisions based on personal interests and not looking at the facts on how you zoned everything else in this county," said Mike Brown, former commission chair.
Brown’s comments prompted a strong response from Henrie who denied any personal bias when it came to his decisions.
"I don’t care what zoning we end up with as long as it makes sense," Henrie said. "The personal comments are not needed and are not appreciated. I act as a commissioner here and am voicing my opinion based on my knowledge of the area."
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Thursday, the planning commission reopened the Nov. 5 public hearing to consider an extended highway corridor and the three new agriculture-based zoning districts, Agricultural (AG-1), Agricultural (AG-6), and Agricultural (AG-20). The zoning discussion began shortly after 8:30 p.m. and followed a work session at 5 p.m.
Commissioners began rapid-firing motions for boundary adjustments to come of the zoning districts and accepting comments from individual property owners as they arose. Commissioners overwhelmingly honored those requests as they applied to the specific parcels. Several motions failed, while others passed on split votes and, at times, were unclear even to the commissioners.
The zoning proposals for the unincorporated lands surrounding Francis City were unchanged and passed 5-2, with Doug Clyde and Louise Willoughby dissenting. A large group of property owners in Woodland said they were supportive of the districts. However, Francis City officials and residents voiced several objections during the previous hearings.
At around 10:40 p.m., commissioners agreed to continue the public hearing, the only unanimous decision of the night.
The extended highway corridor and additional districts have received mixed reviews from North and South Summit property owners. More than 300 residents have attended two public hearings and dozens have submitted comment.
Tom Boyer, a Chalk Creek resident, said he has attended four meetings to comment on the zoning that is being proposed for the Chalk Creek area, which is currently zoned Agriculture Protection (AP-40). As proposed, zoning in the Chalk Creek area would become AG-20, one unit per 20 acres.
"The first time I was here it was proposed an AG-6," Boyer said to commissioners. "The second time it was switched to an AG-20 and I thought, ‘that’s not right.’ You’ve heard from us and AG-6 is what we want. Pay attention to what the folks in the valley want."
Boyer was one of 18 property owners who signed a petition requesting the AG-6 zoning be applied in Chalk Creek. The petition was the subject of conversation during the work session mprior to the hearing, with commissioners questioning its representation of property owners.
"We want our rights back," Boyer began to shout. "We have a right to economic growth. Are you really going to discriminate against Chalk Creek after you’ve listened to others in the county? Don’t discriminate against us. Don’t let personal bias against us kill this deal. If you do, none of you will ever be able to say, ‘we want your public input and we will pay attention to it.’"
Chalk Creek is the only area of contention that still needs to be discussed at the next hearing. The boundaries of the zoning districts proposed for Echo Creek and Henefer were not adjusted, but also have not been approved. The boundaries for the zones in the unincorporated areas that surround Francis, Oakley and Kamas, were approved with changes.
The tone of Thursday’s discussion prompted Willoughby to issue an apology toward the end of the evening.
"I am really embarrassed about our behavior this evening," Willoughby said. "I hope we can put something in place that will make us more professional. I don’t think this plan is as haphazard as it appears. It just appears that way because sometimes we disagree vehemently."
Commission Chair Chris Ure said adjustments were made to the maps reflecting public concerns. While Ure acknowledged the passionate remarks that were made during the hearing, he would not comment on the accusations saying he did not "want to stir a pot that doesn’t need to be."
The public hearing will resume on Thursday, Dec. 3. Commissioners will be reviewing the Chalk Creek area and the amendments to the Development Code that will support the new zones. Once commissioners forward a recommendation to the County Council, additional public hearings will be held before the districts are adopted. While on the council, Dave Ure was the only representative to attend the meetings.
"I think the planning commission, as a whole, will be very happy when this has moved on," Ure said. "It has been a very time-consuming process. I think Thursday night the frustration was starting to show itself and people know we are getting to the end. We are just tired and want to move on."
"This last meeting was definitely a bit of a hiccup," said Peter Barnes, Summit County planning and zoning administrator. "They thought they were just tweaking stuff and maybe they still can forward the map. But if that discussion gives them reason to start second guessing themselves or start looking at other areas again, then they are just responding to public clamor.
"That meeting perfectly illustrated why they need to have reasons for drawing the map the way they have so they can justify it to the public. This needs to be a measured response so we can effectively plan ahead."
To view the zoning maps, go to https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=pertained .
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