No decision yet on appeals of the hotel project at the former Colby School
Residents in the three neighborhoods surrounding the former Colby School property on S.R. 224 will have to wait a little longer to find out whether a hotel project can be built in their backyards.
The Summit County Council resumed its discussion on Wednesday on two appeals regarding the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission’s decision to grant a permit for the project. The appeals were filed in December.
Nearly a dozen people from the surrounding neighborhoods attended the meeting at the Sheldon Richins Building. It was the second time the Council had reviewed the appeals, and the item was listed on the agenda as a discussion with the possibility of approval.
But, County Council members still had several lingering questions after the appellants and applicant made their arguments. They ultimately agreed to continue the discussion to allow themselves more time to review the case.
“We need the opportunity to confirm and deliberate on the issues before we make a decision,” said County Councilor Roger Armstrong. “We have a lot of issues we have to get through in terms of how the original decision was made and the information that was conveyed to the Planning Commission.”
The Planning Commission granted a conditional-use permit for the project on Dec. 12, more than two years after the Planning Department first received the application. The decision was widely unpopular among residents in the Park West Village, Brookside Estates and Two Creeks Ranch neighborhoods. Hundreds attended the Planning Commission meetings about the project.
Members of the Park West Preservation Coalition, which represents several property owners in Park West Village, and Joe Wrona, an attorney representing resident Andrew Levy, filed the two separate appeals with the county on Dec. 22.
The Planning Commission approval was for a 15-room hotel, 5,000-square-foot restaurant, and yoga and fitness studios at the site east of S.R. 224. The vote was 6-1, with former Planning Commissioner Chuck Klingenstein dissenting. Planning Commissioners Canice Harte, Bea Peck, Joel Fine, Malena Stevens, Ryan Dickey and Thomas Cooke agreed to approve the application.
In 2014, the former Colby School/Snowed Inn property was acquired by Emma Worsley and Julie McBroom. Summit County originally approved the Snowed Inn and related uses as a Class II development in August of 1985. The 1998 Development Code allowed for a change of use in the existing building from a hotel to a school and it operated as a school until 2008.
Dave Thomas, the county’s chief civil deputy attorney, said the Planning Commission adequately reviewed the application and interpreted the Class II permit as a conditional-use permit, which he referred to as the functional equivalent. The Planning Commission’s interpretation was based on the advice of Thomas.
But, Wrona continues to argue the uses that were approved within the application are not allowed in that location. He said the site is not appropriate for the project because it exists in a rural residential zone.
“If the use being proposed is not an allowed use, then the county is prohibited from authorizing it,” he said. “The entire application is for uses that are prohibited. What is so unconscionable is the citizens got left behind and their rights got trampled on at the Planning Commission level.”
Matt Bost, a representative of the Park West Village Preservation Coalition and resident, said he would have never bought his home if he thought a hotel project could be approved nearby.
Bruce Baird, an attorney representing the applicant, contends a conditional-use permit carries with the land and the bed and breakfast uses can be legally expanded to include the new uses, such as a yoga studio and restaurant.
“The simple answer is Mr. Thomas made these opinions on behalf of the County Attorney’s Office and no one challenged those opinions,” he said. “The Planning Commission relied upon them and my clients relied upon them for four years.”
The discussion on Wednesday almost didn’t move forward after Armstrong revealed to the appellants and applicant that Wrona was representing his wife, Beth Armstrong, in a personal matter. He said he had not had any conversations with Wrona about the appeals outside of Council chambers and that his wife had approached Wrona on her own volition.
Armstrong was confident he had not violated any ethical boundaries and could make an unbiased decision on the matter.
Baird consulted with Worsley, one of the applicants, on the phone. He said she was not in a position to ask Armstrong to recuse himself without more information. Baird asked that the discussion be continued to a later date, but the Council overruled that request.
County Council Chair Kim Carson said the Council wants more information on whether the Class II permit functions like a conditional-use permit. She said Council members will meet in closed session sometime this week to discuss the matter.
“We take our responsibility very seriously,” she said. “This is a very complex case and you have two appellants with two different appeals with some difference between them. We just want to make sure that we are all 100 percent comfortable in our final conclusions.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.