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New employee takes position at helm of county planning

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Lance Evans is the new face of Morgan County’s planning department, being hired as the planning and development services director last month.  Evans is Morgan’s seventh planning director in a dozen years.

Evans’ career has a decidedly western flavor, taking him from his native Pacific Northwest to Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas and now Utah.  He is certified with the American Institute of Certified Planners and American Planning Association.

He counts over two decades of experience in various aspects of the private and public planning sector.

A native of Oregon, Evans attended college at Brigham Young University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in planning and resource management.  Having family in Utah, Evans often vacationed, camped and hunted in the mountains here, at times passing through Morgan County.  His parents are Utah natives and he has family in Davis County.

“Where you live makes a difference,” said Evans, now an Ogden resident.  “Planners want to make the community a better place.  How the community functions makes a difference on how everything else functions.”

His first planning job was in Billings, Montana.  He moved on to planning in the Denver, Colorado, area.  He was employed as a neighborhood planner in the City of Boise, Idaho, where he worked for five years from 2002 to 2007, and as a pre-development project manager for Hawkins Companies for almost two years.  He moved to Kansas in 2009, where he worked as the senior planner for the City of Manhattan for over seven years before moving to Utah.  The Kansas city has a population of 56,000.

“I’ve done my moving around, but I came back to Utah to be close to family and the mountains,” Evans said in his Morgan office, surrounded by zoning maps.  He points out that Morgan County, surrounded on all sides by counties with much larger development, has done a good job maintaining its rural flavor.  “Morgan is in the middle of everything” sandwiched between the hubbub on the Wasatch Front and the exploding growth in Park City, an affluent resort town.

So far, he would sum up Morgan County’s planning situation as “rural, but growth is coming.”  It reminds him of his planning efforts in Douglas, Colorado, just an hour south of Denver.  “It takes a balance of preserving the rural way of life with the growth that is coming,” said the father of three.

Evans is keeping an eye on developments planned in Snowbasin and Mountain Green, saying plans are “cautiously moving forward.”

Because Morgan County has elements of rural, suburban and recreation, it is a tricky place for a planner, he admitted.  “But Morgan’s got it all,” he said with a smile.  “Let’s run with that.”

Since 2005, the county has hired seven planning directors.  Evans takes over after Bill Cobabe took a planning job in Pleasant View earlier this year.  Cobabe was named director of Morgan County Planning and Development Services in April of 2014, and served for three years.

Before that, IT Director Jeremy Archibald temporarily took over for eight months as the planning department’s director in an effort to automate and streamline various department processes.

Blaine Gehring was director for less than a year in 2012.  Charles Ewert was the county’s planner in 2009 and became the director of the planning department in 2011, spending a total of five years employed in Morgan, two as director.

Grant Crowell served as the county planning director for three years, from March of 2009 to January of 2012.  Sherrie Christensen was employed as the planning and development services director for four years, from 2005 until 2009.

Evans aims to “do it right the first time” when it comes to planning, saying it is a way to show fiscal responsibility.  “Planning is a moving target, with many working parts often moving in different directions.  It can sometimes be chaos,” he said.  “I try to make the right decisions for the long-term, not do Band-aid solutions in the short-term.”

However, he knows that his job carries a certain power.  “To rezone property is a big deal,” he said.

He got a taste of how big of a deal it is in Morgan when, during his first week on the job, the planning commission meeting was moved to a bigger venue to make room for residents showing up to defend “backyard agriculture.”

 

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