Summit County Council still contemplating 461-acre purchase in lower Silver Creek
Summit County’s elected leaders are still weighing the pros and cons of purchasing 461 acres in lower Silver Creek, roughly a year after the $10.4 million purchase agreement was completed.
The completion of the purchase agreement ended three years of negotiations among the County Council, the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District, the estate of Florence J. Gillmor and the Florence J. Gillmor Foundation. The property is adjacent to the Triangle Parcel, located east of the U.S. 40 and Interstate 80 interchange.
But, a final decision to purchase the property, which the Environmental Protection Agency says is contaminated, has not been made. Negotiations have continued as county officials contemplate the liability of moving forward with the purchase.
“We still haven’t closed on it yet,” said Tom Fisher, Summit County manager. “We are currently in the final throes of paperwork and evaluation.”
Fisher was referring to ongoing discussions with the EPA, which considers the parcel a superfund site. The EPA describes a superfund as a contaminated site where hazardous waste has been dumped, left out in the open or otherwise improperly managed. Lower Silver Creek’s status is the result of contamination caused by mine tailings, which are damaging the watershed.
“We are working all those right now, as well as the subdivision plats that have to happen before a closing,” Fisher said. “I believe you will see some type of public meeting about this within the next month. At that point we should be moving to closing rather soon.”
However, Fisher said the county may choose not to buy the land. He said the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District and the County Council still have to make a decision.
The $10.4 million purchase includes a reduction of about $1.5 million, which the Florence Gillmor Foundation agreed to pay to the EPA for the site’s cleanup. The county was responsible for about $8.8 million, paid out of Basin open space funds.
The monies are part of a $25 million bond Basin voters approved in 2014. Of the $25 million, about $15 million were earmarked for open space purchases.
The EPA will have to hold a 30-day comment period after the County Council makes a decision.
Of the 461 acres, about 350 would remain as open space after a county purchase, along with the 112-acre Triangle Parcel. The Triangle Parcel was bought with the intent to develop. Recreational uses are also attached to the property as part of the agreement with the recreation district. The intent is for the property to serve as an extension of the Round Valley open space, with trail connections that extend across U.S. 40.
“We were talking about having some portion, approximately 120 acres, to be held out as having potential for future development,” Fisher said. “It will most likely be used for county government or civic type uses. I don’t think we want to be any more specific at this point about that, but the rest of it will be open for public recreation just like other open spaces that have been purchased.”
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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon provides the services of her trauma-sensitive yoga nonprofit, Tall Mountain Wellness, free of charge to groups like the Summit County Drug Court and the county jail.