Longtime Wasatch County manager now county’s MIDA coordinator
New position will administer the multi-billion dollar project
Some big changes are underway in Wasatch County, and not just the houses shooting up around the Jordanelle Reservoir.
Wasatch County’s longtime, first — and, until recently, only — county manager, Mike Davis, is no longer in that role after the Wasatch County Council recently tapped him to coordinate with the state agency that’s overseeing the construction of Mayflower Mountain Resort on the eastern flank of Deer Valley Resort and thousands of acres of land in the area.
Davis has been appointed the county’s first “MIDA coordinator,” a position that calls on him to work with the Military Installation Development Authority, or MIDA, to smooth the multifaceted process to get the multi-billion dollar development projects off the ground. The appointment establishes Davis in the center of the county’s MIDA-related efforts as the resort and other developments dramatically reshape the area west of the Jordanelle Reservoir.
Mark Nelson, chair of the Wasatch County Council, said the scope of the project is akin to “a new city being built from the ground up,” referring to the ski resort as well as the thousands of homes planned around the reservoir east of U.S. 40.
If construction proceeds as expected, it will account for what Nelson called an “astonishingly large” percentage of the total value of the county’s tax base.
“This project over the next 20 to 30 years, but especially in the next five to 10 years while it’s built out, there are literally a couple of hundred million dollars of revenue to Wasatch County that we’re talking about,” Nelson said. “And we want to make sure that we make the right decision and that we coordinate all of these pieces and all of these stakeholders and we just felt like that someone needed to focus entirely on that.”
The position reports directly to the County Council, Nelson said, adding that Davis is particularly suited for the role.
“One of the reasons we asked him to do this is because of his unique experience in both the development that’s happened over the last 10 to 15 years in the Jordanelle Basin and all of the agreements that are related to that,” Nelson said, also touting Davis’ background as an engineer. “It seemed like both from a historical and experience point of view, he was the best person.”
Davis said he’s been the county manager for 18 years, a tenure that saw the once-sleepy, rural county become one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Nelson said it’s that dynamism that will likely attract a strong pool of candidates for the open county manager position. Assistant County Manager Dustin Grabau has been named interim manager while the county searches for Davis’ replacement.
The coordinator role is unique, born of a strange situation in which MIDA controls the land west of U.S. 40 where Mayflower Mountain Resort is being built after the county ceded that land-use authority to the state agency. County officials indicated the resort’s developer, New York-based Extell Development, pushed for that arrangement with state officials.
The county, however, still controls the services that are needed to support development, like fire protection and law enforcement. It is also providing building permits, performing inspections and issuing certificates of occupancy, officials said, acting as a paid contractor for MIDA.
Davis’ role will be to coordinate between the service districts, the developers and the county itself.
Davis said his main goal is to ensure that the additional revenue created by the development goes to the correct entities, like Wasatch County’s fire and school districts.
As the development is built, the land’s value will rise, and so will the property taxes on that land. The difference between the taxes paid now and the taxes paid after the land has been developed is known as an increment.
There are specific agreements governing where that increment will go, with some going to MIDA to pay off debt it issued to finance the project and the rest going back to taxing entities, the largest of which is the school district.
Davis said adjudicating that arrangement will likely be his largest responsibility.
“I can promise you, the tax system is not black and white,” he said.
He anticipated there would be challenges to the tax collection administration given the amount of money at stake.
Already, the developer has protested some of the fees it is required to pay to the fire district, arguing that they should have been calculated differently. Davis said one of his first tasks will be ensuring that the ordinances that govern those and other fees comply with state code to prevent future discrepancies.
The developer has estimated that the Mayflower Mountain Resort will be worth $3.2 billion when it is built. Lifts could start turning there in 2023.
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.