With 3-2 vote, County stays in Accord
July 9, 2015
A divided Summit County Council narrowly voted to stay in the Mountain Accord this week after sidestepping the issue for the last few months.
Wednesday, the County Council voted 3-2 in favor of pledging $150,000 toward the collaborative process between several government bodies from the Wasatch Front and the Wasatch Back. County Council members Dave Ure and Roger Armstrong cast the dissenting votes.
While the Mountain Accord has ignited debates in the past, the County Council made the decision in less than an hour, with few people in the audience and little discussion.
County Council member Claudia McMullin, who in the past has questioned how the Mountain Accord would benefit the county, said it’s crucial that the county remain at the table and stay engaged with the state and federal transit partners.
"If nothing else, what this process has done has, at a minimum, highlighted our regional and local issues with respect to transit and transportation with partners we will need in the future," McMullin said. "I would hate to alienate them at this, or any, stage. I think it is well worth this community’s money for that access and our ability to, hopefully, at the end of the day help craft what our future will look like in a way that we have something to say about it."
Chair Kim Carson and councilor Chris Robinson’s comments echoed McMullin’s theme. Robinson serves as the county’s representative on the Mountain Accord board. During the last several months, he has lobbied on behalf of the Mountain Accord process, which still includes a study of a tunnel connection between Park City and Cottonwood canyons.
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"We can’t shape and influence the outcomes unless we are at that table," Carson said. "Personally, I’m not afraid of the tunnel study or more information. I think we can only learn from more information."
Even though the discussion included a chance for public input, only two residents testified.
Vernon Greco, a Kamas resident, local business owner and past president of Park City Mountain Resort, supports the County Council staying in the Mountain Accord. He said staying involved allows the council to do a "good job of influencing where we are at in the process."
"I think it is important that the county does stay involved because the devil is in the details and this has a long way to go before it’s done," Greco said. "I’d hate to see the county back out now."
The County Council’s decision comes as no surprise even when council members have exercised extreme caution and apprehension when discussing the county’s commitment in the past.
Earlier in the week, Carson and Armstrong said the County Council would likely sign the agreement.
Armstrong said while skeptical, he’s "willing to take the first steps to see where it leads." However, on Wednesday he said he wasn’t "happy with the process." Armstrong said he has been "wrestling with it" for a while and there is still too much.
"We asked for changes to be made, and some have been made, but I’m still very suspicious about where it will wind up," Armstrong said explaining his vote. "I think there are Wasatch Front interests here that are compelling, in terms of tapping into Summit County and specifically Park City, and I don’t think those interests will go away.
"I think on the transportation side, the $150,000 is better served funding our own transportation and planning rather than filtering it through the system where we have limited control."
Ure has remained a staunch opponent of the Mountain Accord’s implications all along, consistently saying, "Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should."
"Some areas I don’t think should be developed," Ure said. "And once you put in place a plan, things seem to grow and enlarge."
Ure doubted the ability of the Mountain Accord to deliver results from some of the ambitious plans it has proposed.
"I don’t think we will get out of this what we think we will get. I think what we are doing either on the Wasatch Front or the Wasatch Back will do nothing more than make the development up there grow more rapidly," he said. "Being part of the Mountain Accord does nothing more than confuses or puts false hope in our way. Just because we go our own separate ways doesn’t mean that we can’t share our thoughts, so I would just as soon separate right now."
However, the County Council decided to join Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Sandy City and Cottonwood Heights in pledging its support. Park City leaders voted last month to remain involved. The city’s financial commitment, at $300,000, is double the county’s. Council members say the city’s participation only slightly influenced their decision.
County Council members say an opt-out clause still enables the county to back out at any point without having to continue paying.
The county’s vote on Wednesday came down to the wire. The Mountain Accord executive board is scheduled to meet on Monday, July 13, to vote on the overall plan.