Summit County Council envisions a unified county in 2030
Summit County Council members were asked this week what their vision for the community in 12 years is at their annual retreat, a timeframe that would be critical if Utah submits a bid for the Winter Olympics in as early as 2030.
The Council spent more than an hour on Monday discussing its long-term vision and goals for the community, especially if it is a site for the games. County Council members typically use the annual retreat as an opportunity to delve deeper into issues that the Council is currently facing, such as transportation, sustainability and affordable housing.
County staffers wrote down each councilor’s vision for 2030, hanging over-sized sheets of white paper around the conference room at the South Fork Lodge Conference Center in Coalville.
The councilors listed matters such as transportation, preservation, recruitment of higher paying jobs and continuing support of the agriculture industry on the East Side of the county. Other ideas included increased recreation in the eastern part of the county, transportation connections to Utah Olympic Park and reducing the carbon footprint of the community. County Councilor Roger Armstrong specifically mentioned leveraging state and federal funding for new technology as it relates to hosting another Olympics.
One of the topics that emerged early in the discussion was a desire to create a unified county, where the dichotomy between the east and west isn’t so stark. The topic did not specifically relate to the county as a host site for a games. However, it addressed a significant issue facing the community.
“There haven’t been many things that have brought them (East and West Sides) together,” said County Council Chair Kim Carson. “I do see that we have an ability to help them connect. There will always be differences based on the economics of the area. We have a resort on the West Side, but we also want to help maintain the agriculture of the East Side. That will always be there. I think we can build on the importance of both and how it is not that one is better than the other.”
County Council members talked about the growth and development occurring on the East Side and potentially changing the demographics of the area. Armstrong discussed the need to create more jobs in North and South Summit as a way to help reduce the risk of turning those areas into bedroom communities.
“If we can build more jobs, that can keep the next generation going,” he said. “If not, I think Kamas, Francis or Oakley could become bedroom communities of Park City.”
County Council members considered ways to unite the community, particularly the three school districts, through recreation. Ideas included establishing shared facilities or creating a countywide recreation district.
“We are going to have to help the East Side of the county come along and be a part of expanding recreation opportunities, trails systems and expanding the gateway to the North slopes,” said Doug Clyde, a County Council member.
As the free-flowing discussion neared a conclusion, Armstrong said there may still be some uncertainty within departments and the Planning Commissions about the Council’s goals. He encouraged county staffers to address any issues.
Pat Putt, the county’s community development director, suggested the elected officials may not be working diligently enough on developing a vision for the future.
He said staff members in his department are “working really hard to do the right thing” and engage the appropriate ideas and projects. However, more appeals can be expected without a clear understanding of the Council’s goals, Putt said, referring to the current appeals of the permits for the Woodward Park City action camp and hotel project at the former Colby School on S.R. 224.
“It feels sometimes that we are out too far in the weeds in front of the Council on the ideas and projects,” he said. “To be successful, we have to think outside of the box and be creative. What we are struggling with is that sense that we are getting out too far.”
If the county were to host another Olympics in 2030, Putt asked what sort of community would it be: an Olympic or resort community?
“If we are an Olympic community, a Woodward makes sense at an area that hosts winter sledding activities,” he said. “If we are a resort community, we thought a boutique hotel was a reasonable proposal to take through the process. What we are struggling with and will continue to run in with the future is we value open space and connectivity, but we have to say ‘Yes’ to the things that get developed in the right location. But the community doesn’t even want to do that.”
County officials and elected leaders have recognized that the county will have to play a more significant role in preparing for a potential games than it did during the 2002 Olympics. Monday’s discussion was a clear indication that elected officials are starting to consider what the community needs to successfully host another games.
County Council members spent the rest of the afternoon on Monday discussing affordable housing and their strategic goals for 2018. The Council’s strategic goals help guide decisions and encourage the pursuit of ideas to further the objectives the Council outlines.
The objectives will be later approved in a resolution during an upcoming County Council meeting.
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.