Promontory manager named to East Side board
February 27, 2016
Everyone should have a conflict of interest if they are vested in the community where they serve, according to Rich Sonntag, the newest member of the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission.
Last week, Sonntag, Managing Director of Promontory, was appointed to a position on the seven-member board. Sonntag will fill the seat previously held by longtime resident Jeff Vernon.
"Having the conflict makes you acutely aware of what the issues are," Sonntag said. "Promontory is a huge master planned community and we are seeing that kind of growth now in the eastern part of the county. That is where my 30 years of doing master planning and development might contribute.
"I’m not saying I want to dictate or say the way things have to be done, but I have a little bit of experience and maybe I can lend some of that," Sonntag said.
Sonntag began overseeing operations at Promontory after ushering the development through the zoning process more than 15 years ago. He describes himself as a "recovering zoning lawyer."
"I have seen it (Promontory) go from a cattle ranch to a very significant part of the eastern Summit County tax base," Sonntag said. "I’m proud of what we have accomplished. I’m sure it’s different than what has occurred in the rest of the county, but it is an example of what can occur."
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Planning Commissioners serve on a volunteer basis and are appointed to three-year terms. They are responsible for reviewing applications for conditional use permits or subdivision plans and making recommendations concerning zoning and development code revisions to the Summit County Council.
More than 10 people applied for two positions on the commission. Tonja Hanson, whose term was due to expire Feb. 28, was reappointed for another term.
The application period was open between Jan. 15 and Feb. 10. Annette Singleton, Summit County office manager, said the process had been extended by two weeks because the planning department received complaints from people who weren’t aware of the filing period.
Vernon said the delay was suspicious. He said he reapplied for his position, but "got kicked off" in what he referred to as a rare move.
"There is some sneaky stuff going on," Vernon said. "I am the only one that hasn’t been reappointed since the 1970s. I haven’t caused any controversy that I’m aware and I have lived here 60 years, my whole life. I’m what they call a way-back native. My grandparents are even from here, but they don’t want my kind of people on the commission and things just don’t make sense. There have to be some things going on in the background to give me the boot and appoint someone else who has a massive amount to gain. There is a lot going on over there in Promontory.
"And when we think of Promontory, we think of Park City," he said. "It’s not eastern Summit County so what we did is we just lost another seat on our commission to someone who has Park City ties."
Roger Armstrong, council chair, said members "carefully" discussed whether to appoint Sonntag and decided his expertise outweighed any potential conflicts that may arise. He said the decision was "not even a little bit politically motivated."
"Promontory’s development agreement has been in place for a long time and it is very rare that managers come before the commission," Armstrong said. "We think, at the end of the day, his background, his intellect and ability to analyze issues creatively will serve everyone very well."
Sonntag and Hanson will join fellow commissioners Chris Ure, Doug Clyde, Ken Henrie and Sean Wharton on the board.
The East Side Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for March 3. However, Sonntag will have to recuse himself from discussing one of the agenda items which relates to a transmission line set to cross Promontory. He said, though, it is not indicative of how his term will be conducted.
"Most of what happens to Promontory now is administratively handled and while stuff pretty routinely goes through the planning funnel, it rarely makes it to the commission but maybe once or twice a year," Sonntag said.
To view the commission agenda when it becomes available go to http://summitcounty.org/agendacenter.
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