Summit County Hears Support for $ 50 Million Bond Proposal, Warns of East Side Skepticism


Summit County councilors have suggested that money from a $ 50 million open space bond could be used to purchase conservation easements on East Side land, which is the legal instrument protecting the 841-acre Wright Land and Livestock ranch east of Coalville development. The Summit Land Conservancy and Summit County jointly hold a conservation easement on the land, an agreement reached in 2019.
Courtesy of Summit Land Conservancy

A handful of people commented on the Summit County’s $ 50 million open space bond measure Wednesday evening, mostly offering support, but saying officials should work to build confidence among voters on the East Side. .

Several members of a group called Friends of Kamas Valley attended the meeting in Coalville and asked the council to somehow guarantee what the councilors said was their intention to spend the proceeds of the bond. largely in the eastern part of the county. They also asked the council to hold a public meeting in Kamas to discuss the bond.

One commentator, who identified herself as Terina Atkinson Darcey, told the council she supported the measure and said it could help preserve the history and culture of the Kamas Valley.

“As I tell my resident friends about it, they are a little doubtful that such a thing could happen. And that, being the poor relation, all of this will actually come to Kamas, ”she said. “This is their biggest concern. It’s not even tax to pay, they’re willing to pay that $ 50 to cross the hill and see some of the farmland and pasture that has been conserved.

The county is proposing to borrow $ 50 million to purchase conservation lands and easements and to build recreational facilities like trails and trailheads. The money could also be used for measures that support environmental health and wildlife.

The authorities have estimated the fiscal impact on a principal residence of $ 685,000 to $ 45 to $ 50 annually.

Several commentators on Wednesday evening spoke about the importance of land conservation and the negative environmental impacts the development could have on the water flowing through the Kamas Valley.

They also indicated the importance of acting now to preserve what remains of the region’s rural heritage.

Advisers said the effort is badly needed now as the East Side faces increasing development pressure.

Development proposals for hundreds of homes go through municipal approval processes in cities on the East Side and large tracts of land are on the market.

The proceeds of the bond could be used to purchase development rights in conservation easements, which allow landowners to earn money on their land without having it turned into a subdivision.

While the bond to pay for open space isn’t new to the Park City area, this is the first time the question has been asked of voters on the East Side. All voters in the county will be asked to decide the fate of the obligation in the general election ballot on November 2. The ballot will also feature a $ 79 million school obligation for voters in the Park City School District.

Some have said the county’s bail process was rushed, its first mention in a town hall meeting in August just days before a legal deadline to place it on the ballot. The ballots are being printed with the bond question and will be mailed out on October 12th.

Questions remain as to how the county will select which projects to fund and whether the public will have access to conserved land, which is not always possible on private lands where conservation easements are in place.

The advisers did not identify specific projects to spend the money on, but indicated that the areas of critical concern are the Weber Basin Corridor and the Kamas Valley areas. They also indicated that there were not many opportunities left to purchase open space for conservation in the Snyderville Basin.

David Thomas, the county’s deputy attorney general, said the council would provide more details on the plans at a public meeting if the measure passes and the county chooses to issue the bonds.

At Wednesday’s meeting, David Darcey, a resident of Kamas, spoke out in favor of the link, but said the county had work to do to gain the trust of residents of the East Side.

“I’ve heard reluctance from a number of people, who also vote, who quite frankly don’t trust the process or question raising taxes to buy private land. The county needs to be very clear and transparent about the land acquisition process before it goes to a vote, ”he said. “If people even start to think that there is going to be a forced conviction or that a farmer will not be able to cultivate his land, that link will collapse in the Kamas Valley.”

In a subsequent interview, Darcey said some feared the county would use the money to take land from farmers.

“People say, ‘Well, I won’t trust anything (county says),’ I heard farmer XYZ has his land condemned and is no longer able to stand there. cultivate, ”Darcey said.

Another commentator also raised the issue of sentencing, prompting advisers to ask Thomas to address the issue. He said the county could not use the proceeds of the bonds to condemn land.

“Unless the purpose of the link includes a prominent domain, you cannot use it for that, and the link resolution does not provide for it,” Thomas said.

Darcey indicated that there is a level of mistrust between some longtime Southern Summit residents and the county. He spoke of the difficulties landowners face in accessing the equity in their land, their inability to cede part of their land to a family member to build a house and what some see as arbitrary area designations. wetlands that can impede land use in certain ways.

“I think people’s perceptions are their reality. That’s what I think we’re dealing with here in Kamas Valley, maybe a little bit of mistrust of the system or what the county will ultimately do, ”he said.

He welcomed the council’s apparent openness to the idea of ​​scheduling a meeting at the South Summit. Another public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at the Sheldon Richins County Services Building in Kimball Junction.

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