Summit County’s new zone could shape growth in the Basin, officials say |

Summit County’s new zone could shape growth in the Basin, officials say

Hope is to combat suburban sprawl, incentivize nodes of development

Summit County has a new land-use zone that officials say could shape growth in the Basin and how areas like Kimball Junction are redeveloped.
Park Record file photo

The Summit County Council has adopted a new land-use zone and development application review process, two items that the average resident might never think about or see, but ones that officials say might play an important part in the way the Snyderville Basin looks — and what is built there — for decades.

Proponents of the land-planning tools, including Community Development Director Pat Putt, say they allow the county to combat suburban sprawl by incentivizing growth in areas where county officials want it to be located.

Detractors, including Councilor Roger Armstrong, the lone dissenter during the council vote earlier this month, have indicated that the language hadn’t been examined with the rigor commensurate with the zone’s possible impacts, that the zone could incentivize massive amounts of growth and that the county might lose its ability to control the process through future state legislative action.

On June 9, on a 4-1 vote, the Summit County Council approved the neighborhood mixed-use zone, which allows for projects that have no fewer than three land uses. That could mean an apartment complex with businesses on the ground floor and dedicated recreation space on the property, for example.

Before the vote, councilors increased the amount of affordable housing required for a mixed-use project to 50% of the total. A 100-unit apartment complex, then, would be required to build 50 affordable units.

Officials also approved, this time in a unanimous vote, the master planned development process, which changes how the county will review larger projects.

Putt has referred to it as giving developers the answers to the test before the approval process starts so that projects more closely hew to the expectations of the Basin Planning Commission and County Council.

Putt said he had been working on the neighborhood mixed-use zone since he arrived at the county nearly a decade ago.

“We believed at the time and we still believe now that our opportunity to manage growth in a way that helps manage traffic, and the rest of our sustainability initiatives, is going to be a function of our ability to make wise redevelopment choices and wise in-fill development choices rather than continue a suburban, low-density sprawl development pattern,” he said.

The idea is to create dense nodes of developments connected with public transportation, with homes next to the stores residents need to visit and recreation opportunities nearby.

He hopes the zone will incentivize developers to pursue projects in the six areas the county included as potential sites for mixed-use developments in the Snyderville Basin General Plan. Those sites include the Jeremy Ranch/Pinebrook area, lower Silver Creek, Rasmussen Road, the Old Hwy. 40 corridor, the Canyons Village base area and Kimball Junction.

“Recognizing that we will continue to grow over time, our success was going to be in part based on our ability to think wisely about how we redevelop areas like Kimball Junction in the future, and our other existing commercial areas,” Putt said. “The idea was never to create a mixed-use zone and then insert it into existing residential areas or create new areas of commercial development.”

The council’s decision to approve the new zone does not mean those sites will necessarily be sites for mixed-use developments. Developers would have to apply to change the land’s current zoning and the County Council would have to approve the change.

That is a legislative process, as opposed to an administrative one, officials have said. That means that county officials can use their discretion in approving or denying projects based on their fit in the area rather than being compelled to reach a certain conclusion or allow certain projects.

In recent months, however, councilors have indicated that the state Legislature might seek to take away elements of development-related local control.

If the county were to lose its ability to regulate rezoning of land — which would be a significant change and one that officials have indicated is unlikely — it could pave the way for hundreds of thousands of square feet of new development in the mixed-use areas.

“Can the Legislature come at some point in a special session this year or in January of next year and change the whole paradigm? Absolutely, there’s always that potential,” Putt said. “My hope is that we continue to focus on the possibility of how we can manage the challenges ahead of us rather than to plan by fear of what might happen.”

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