Snyderville Basin Planning Commission OKs hotel project at former Colby School site
The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission approved on Tuesday a hotel project at the former Colby School site on the east side of S.R. 224, despite residents’ pleas for the planning panel to reject the application.
Planning Commissioners spent nearly four hours discussing the merits of the proposal and taking public input about the project.. More than 50 people attended the meeting and nearly 20 addressed the Planning Commission.
Planning Commissioners approved a conditional-use application for a 15-room hotel, 5,000-square foot restaurant, and yoga and fitness studios at the site. It represents a significantly scaled-back version of what was originally proposed: development of the existing property and more than 8 acres of nearby lots, as well as 40 small individual hotel-room cabins described as “eco cabins.” The project would have covered more than 13 acres.
The vote was 6-1, with 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, Emma Worsley and Julie McBroom acquired the former Colby School/Snowed Inn property. 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.
The conditional-use permit application was submitted to Summit County’s Planning Department more than two years ago. Seven public meetings, including four hearings, have been held about the project.
Brooke Hontz, president of Daly Summit Consulting and a representative for the applicants, said the Planning Commission’s approval verified the existing rights decision Summit County’s attorneys previously made for the property.
“We appreciate the time and effort the Planning Commission and Staff have put into the process,” Hontz said in an email. “We feel the former Snowed Inn/Colby site will be a great home for our project.”
The former Colby School is in a rural residential zone and is surrounded by the Park West Village, Brookside Estates and Two Creeks Ranch neighborhoods. Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have overwhelmingly opposed the project from the outset.
Lisa Farmer, a Park West resident, read from a letter during the meeting on behalf of the Park West Preservation Coalition. She said it strongly opposed the Colby School project, referring to approval of it as opening Pandora’s Box.
“We urge you not to open it,” she stated. “…Approval of the proposed commercial uses by the applicant will forever alter the character of the three adjoining neighborhoods by allowing resort commercial use in a parcel zoned rural residential, and will create a dangerous precedent for other neighborhoods along S.R. 224 and elsewhere in the Snyderville Basin.”
Several members of the audience stood in support of Farmer’s statement and the Park West Preservation Coalition’s letter.
Mitigation for light, traffic and noise has been a major point of contention among residents who argued those factors cannot be sufficiently controlled. Others argued commercial development, such as a hotel, belongs on the west side of S.R. 224.
“The community should be respected, not because of the legal opinion, but because the community knows what’s best,” resident Debi Scoggan said during the meeting. “We all got behind the Canyons SPA (Specially Planned Area) because it kept development on the west side of 224. I can’t understand how you would get behind this. Maybe this is just one time we should consider the community’s voice.”
Adam Smith, a Park West Village resident, said the project is “great, but not here.” He said he would support the proposal in another location.
“It doesn’t belong where it is,” he said during the meeting. “My neighbors have done their homework and you have to look up what they have showed you. It comes down to bordering Park West Village and mitigating it for us. Every night the lights are on and that is going to get worse. They cannot stop the noise and light pollution from affecting the neighbors.”
Joe Wrona, an attorney representing several of the neighbors, told Planning Commissioners to seriously consider the legality of the project and the implications an approval could have on future developers.
“You’re being asked to make a decision when you don’t have an explanation or enough information,” he said. “Ultimately, the proposal is a bad proposal for this location.”
While most opposed the project, several people did offer their support.
“I am in full support of the Colby School project,” Angie Brown said during the meeting. “It is taking us forward. It’s sad to drive past the Colby School and see it deteriorate. It needs to be brought back to life. I think it will bring it back to stellar conditions and I have full confidence in what they said they are going to do.”
After discussing the mitigation factors that are being attached to the application, such as mandating a special event permit for events attracting 188 people or more, Planning Commissioners approved the project. County code only requires a special event permit for events with 500 people or more.
“After listening carefully tonight, I have not heard any new or contradictory statements or evidence regarding the impacts on this project, such as traffic, and nothing was brought up or presented that contradicts the facts that we have been presented by staff and the developer,” said Planning Commissioner Bea Peck. “I am satisfied with the findings of fact and mitigation as proposed.”
The Planning Commission’s approval of the application can be appealed within 10 days of the decision. If an appeal is granted, the project would go before the Summit County Council for review and a final determination.
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A new proposal to redevelop the Colby School calls for an eight-room bed-and-breakfast, a far cry from the 55-room hotel suggested as the owners first embarked on this process five years ago. Neighbors have indicated they will oppose the proposal.