West Side-planning spots for grabs
On Wednesday about a dozen people asked the Summit County Council if they could work long hours for little pay and risk being yelled at by the public.
The candidates were applying for three vacancies on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission to be filled by its next meeting on March 22. Applicants from various fields but mostly real estate and development pitched their credentials to the council.
The power and influence of the three open spots were not lost on the candidates, many of whom said the controversial Weilenmann development was one reason for their recent interest in the planning process.
The commission is not supposed to be a political body, council members told one candidate. It interprets the county code which contains several gray areas, they told another.
The following reasons were given for wanting to serve on the commission:
Velarde, who lives in Silver Creek and works in the mortgage industry and with The Egyptian Theater, said she has attended most of the body’s semi-monthly meetings for the past year.
"Some people get into sports and some people get into art. Something about the variances for driveways in Summit Park really got to me," she said.
Velarde said she understands the code and would be able to interpret the gray areas well. She pledged to help the commission fulfill its responsibility to encourage affordable housing and senior housing.
As a television producer, DeFord, who lives in upper Pinebrook, said he understands the importance of preserving scenic places. As an entrepreneur, he also understands the need for economic development.
"I have the ability to see both sides of the coin," he said. "I’m not here for the developers or the open-space people."
DeFord said he grew up in the lumber business and knows the homebuilding industry. He welcomed the idea of a Raleigh Studios development but said the council was right to forbid it near the entry corridor.
As an attorney, Kottler, who lives in Summit Park, said he would be able to help the commission steer clear of decisions that might invite litigation against the county.
He said interpreting the code is similar to giving legal interpretations of statutes something for which he was uniquely suited.
Kottler also shared two negative experiences he had working with planning bodies in Salt Lake County to express his commitment to fair process and building a sense of trust with the public.
Dowling, who lives near Glenwild, said that his experience as a commercial Realtor has taught him how powerful developers are, and the importance of a planning commission to keep them in check. With a background in economics and an almost-complete Master’s Degree in Urban Planning, Dowling said he could find the right balance between growth and conservation.
Lawson, a civil engineer who currently works for The Colony, said he was disappointed in the lack of involvement of the public in the planning process.
Recent hot-button issues have demonstrated how apathetic citizens are until something affects their own neighborhood, he said. In anger, they attack the commissioners, who then get angry themselves.
Lawson, who lives on Old Ranch Road, advocated for neighborhood committees, as in Salt Lake County, to institutionalize public participation in the planning process.
Currently serving on the Board of Adjustments, Franklin, who lives west of Jeremy Ranch, said he has the ability to see if plans "pass the sniff test." Too many proposals do not account for important details, he said.
"I think growth is inevitable, but it should be sustainable, logical and planned out," he said.
For example, he disagreed with the density of the Weilenmann development, primarily because it did not plan for where managers would shovel the snow.
"I can see pitfalls that will start to poke their head out," he told the council.
Kutzbach is a business owner specializing in commercial real estate such as self-storage facilities and industrial buildings. He understands land use especially contracts for it, he said.
Kutzbach, a Jeremy Ranch resident, said he sometimes senses behind-the-scenes political maneuvering among planning commissioners and it makes him uncomfortable.
"I’d prefer it be more straightforward. As a citizen, I’d like to get right to the point," he told the council.
Sitting commissioner Bassam Salem, who lives in Pinebrook, also applied for another term, but was not interviewed Wednesday.
In closer adherence to state law, the county council interviewed but will decline to appoint applicants who do not live in the unincorporated West Side, said David Thomas with the Summit County Attorney’s office.
This list includes Air Force veteran Stephen Peterson, former commissioner Bruce Taylor, founding president of Utah Open Lands Chuck Klingenstein, and potentially, former Boeing executive Timothy Fehr because they live within Park City’s incorporated city limits.
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