Summit County Council approves open space committee appointments

The regional groups will soon start creating a set of standards used to determine how properties should be acquired

The Summit County Courthouse.
Park Record file photo

The Summit County Council on July 6 approved an important step in the process to allocate $50 million in bond proceeds across the county to protect open space.

The County Council approved the appointments of 25 residents to regional advisory groups representing the West Side as well as North Summit and South Summit. Departing County Manager Tom Fisher provided elected officials a list of recommendations during the meeting after he reviewed applications. The groups are tasked with identifying their region’s values and helping create a standard that will be used by the open space advisory committee to identify land in that area that should be acquired and preserved for open space, agricultural protection areas or conservation easements.

The County Council adopted an ordinance in May laying out how the bond, which Summit County voters overwhelmingly supported last November, would be rolled out. The process includes the formation of an executive committee, which will use the information detailed by each advisory group.

Each township mayor provided recommendations for the groups and numerous other applications were submitted by individuals from the community. Fisher estimates there were 62 applications in total, including around 10 for each from the North and South groups and the rest coming from the Snyderville Basin and Park City.

“We’ve been working on this a long time,” he said. “I was glad to see the response.”

Fisher is familiar with the people who applied for seats on the North Summit and South Summit panels, which made it easier to narrow down the candidate pool. He opted to interview applicants coming from the Basin because of how many there were. When reviewing applications, Fisher said, he tried to ensure there was fair geographic distribution and looked for people with diverse backgrounds as well as knowledge about their region or the environment.

Notable applicants included Tom Smart, who will represent the incorporated boundaries of Oakley on the South Summit advisory group. Fisher said Smart has deep ties to the community and has been key to the city’s pursuit of trails and open space. He was also excited to see Tonja Hanson, who will represent the incorporated boundaries of Coalville, apply for the North Summit advisory group because of her experience on the planning commission there. Fisher said Joan Card, who represents the incorporated boundaries of Park City, also brings experience working in environmental law and administration to the West Side regional advisory group.

Also chosen to represent the West Side are City Hall staffer Heinrich Deters, Snyderville Basin Recreation District director Dana Jones, Dorothy Adams, who represents unincorporated western Summit County, and Snyderville Basin Open Space Advisory Committee member Dan Gillenwater. Graham Anthony, David Houck, Chris O’Connell, Joan Meixner and Park City Councilor Ryan Dickey were selected as citizens at large.

The North Summit group includes Henefer Town Councilor Casey Ovard and Dick Stoner, who represents unincorporated North Summit. Citizens at large include Gale Pace, Terry Diston, Bridget Hayes and Eric Bradshaw.

The South Summit advisory group consists of Kamas city planner Amanda Huffmyer, Wes Blazzard, who represents the incorporated boundaries of Kamas, Trilby Cox, who represents the incorporated boundaries of Francis, and Wesley Siddoway, who represents unincorporated South Summit. Phares Gines, McKinley Smoot and Jan Perkins were chosen as citizens at large.

While some community members have criticized the amount of time it’s taken staffers to reach this point in the process, Fisher said the county wanted to make sure the community had ample time to give input amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Our focus early on was to issue the bond – and that is done. The money is in hand,” Fisher said. “The County Council is wanting to make sure the community input into this process is very transparent and very sound so that when expenditures are made, that expenditure leads to future expenditures and probably future requests within the community for money to achieve these goals.”

He continued, “It’s more than just this bond. It’s the future of open space and conservation for the county and they want to make sure they’re doing it right.”

The regional advisory committees are expected to meet for a large orientation later this week. The groups will then meet separately to start developing a set of criteria and values they want used to judge open space considerations in their region. Each advisory committee is expected to create a set of standards based on residents’ values and will act as a think tank for the best use of land in targeted areas. Fisher estimates this process could take up to three months.

Some members from the regional groups will then be appointed to the executive committee, which works alongside elected officials to use the standards to help decide how properties will be reviewed and pursued. Landowners may also negotiate their own deals with the county by filing a notice of interest with the open space advisory committee. Land trusts and other partners can also bring forward properties they want to protect. The executive committee will then hear a presentation about the land and determine how to proceed.

“People are very anxious about certain areas of the county and they see the development pressure coming. There are projects starting to be lined up for evaluation, but I think it’s important to know these projects always take a long time to come to fruition,” Fisher said. “Just because someone says there is an opportunity and we have to make a decision within two weeks, it usually takes longer than that.”

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