Silver Creek neighbors set to sue Summit County over ‘comically massive’ riding arena approval |

Silver Creek neighbors set to sue Summit County over ‘comically massive’ riding arena approval

Council approved permit for 14,000-square-foot arena last week

The Summit County Courthouse.
Park Record file photo

A group of Silver Creek residents is preparing to sue Summit County over the County Council’s decision to permit a 14,000-square-foot horse riding arena to be built on a 2 1/2 acre lot in the neighborhood.

On a split vote, the council last Wednesday approved Val Geist’s application for a conditional use permit to build the arena on North Whileaway Road. Councilor Roger Armstrong dissented and Councilor Doug Clyde abstained.

Geist said she plans to use the arena to work her specialty dressage horses during the winter and to board horses for a handful of friends. She also plans to build a home on the 2.65-acre lot.

Neighbors say the building doesn’t fit in the area and is significantly larger than anything else nearby.

One condition of approval, Councilor Chris Robinson said, was reversing the site plan to move the arena to the back of the lot, rather than place it on Whileaway Road.

Lois Hall, who said she lives next door and has been in Silver Creek for 22 years, called the building “crazy, comically massive.”

“Now they’ve flipped it — it’s still a humongous building in our neighborhood,” she said. “It still doesn’t fit.”

Hall also felt the approval process favored Geist, with officials on several occasions directing county staffers to work with her to improve the application and move it toward approval.

The council’s approval came after an unusual process. In October, county staffers recommended the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission approve the plan, which the commission did not do. That decision was appealed to the County Council, which sent the matter back to the commission, which again denied the permit.

The County Council ultimately overruled the planning commission, and now Hall said her group of neighbors plans to appeal to 3rd District Court, which can overturn the council’s decision.

In explaining his dissent, Armstrong noted the size of the building, saying flipping its location doesn’t undo the facility’s impacts on the neighborhood.

“It’s going to stand out whether you locate that at the front of the property or the back of the property,” he said.

Council Chair Glenn Wright indicated one reason for his support was so the council could retain the ability to move the facility to the back of the property even if it lost an appeal in court. Armstrong, however, said if the council denied the permit and then lost an appeal in court, it was likely the county would retain the power to impose conditions like flipping the site plan.

The Planning Commission’s most recent denial centered on a belief that the size of the building did not fit the county’s definition of the building meeting the standard of “human scale.”

Armstrong indicated he shared that view.

“The Planning Commission got this right,” he said. “From a human scale standpoint, it doesn’t comply with our code and that is not something that can be mitigated. It doesn’t comply with our code, period.”

The county does not limit the size of accessory building units like the proposed arena. That has led to a proliferation of applications for large-scale buildings that comply with county code, councillors indicated, like hockey rinks and a 20,000-square-foot barn.

The county recently passed a moratorium on accessory dwelling unit construction until officials update the code with restrictions.

“I’m hopeful with the temporary zoning ordinance we have in place now we can finally put a stop to these kinds of uses and with this size and scale,” Armstrong said.

Hall’s group had not filed its appeal as of early Tuesday afternoon.

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