Now that the Morgan County Council has approved the rezone and development agreement, Morgan may be home to the Holding family’s next four-season destination resort envied by others.
“This is one of the biggest economic development opportunities Morgan County has now and into the future,” said Snowbasin consultant Becky Zimmerman. “There’s a lot of places quite envious of the opportunity you have before you. The net benefits are quite significant.”
Snowbasin developers plan 2,447 dwelling units on 8,000 acres in Morgan County. Plans call for a new ski resort center, hotel, timeshare units, single-family residential units, multifamily residential, condominiums, townhomes, mixed-use units, spa, golf courses, ski school, retail, restaurants, trails, and an emergency services base. Snowbasin representatives say the whole plan may take 50 years to come to fruition, depending on the market.
“It is a very intricate, complex, involved development,” Morgan County Councilman Lyle Nelson said. “We are walking in with our fingers crossed and high hopes that everything will work out. It will help propel us into the future.”
Bruce Parker, the county’s consultant hired specifically to help with the Snowbasin project, said after much study, he thinks Snowbasin will positively contribute to the county’s long-term economic stability.
“Snowbasin should not create any financial burden on the taxpayers of Morgan County,” Parker said.
According to studies, as much as 80 percent of some residential areas of the development could be secondary residences taxed at 100 percent of taxable value.
Snowbasin and the Holding family have been planning the development for over five years, while Morgan County officials have been considering the concept for the last three years.
Both the county (including its staff and consultants) and the owner/developer agree that the process so far has been a collaborative one. While it appears both sides are pleased with the results so far, Snowbasin officials admit it has been the most rigorous process it has ever been through including their developments in Weber County; Ketchum, Idaho; and Flagstaff, Ariz.
“This is the most interesting, far-seeing, large-scope agreement I have ever been involved with,” said Snowbasin representative Wally Huff. “The people working on (the county’s) behalf) have raised questions I have never even thought of. We saw it as a challenge to come up with an answer. The volume of the agreement and number of conditions is far beyond what I have done with any group.”
But Snowbasin officials know that they may be setting a precedence in Morgan County.
“This may be a model for the county going forward, and we hope so,” Zimmerman said. “We have blazed the trail for quality development that pays its own way in Morgan County.”
County staff and Snowbasin owners say the development agreement goes over and beyond the county’s general plan and management practices. In December of 2010, the county updated their general plan and identified the area in question as a proper place for a master planned resort community. On Sept. 12, the Morgan County Planning Commission forwarded a positive recommendation for a rezone to the county council.
On Tuesday, the county council unanimously voted to rezone the 8,141 acres from MU-160 to resort special district-Snowbasin. The council also unanimously voted to approve the development agreement with Snowbasin owners.
In recommending approval, Parker said he considered that the actions satisfy the county’s general plan, complies with the county development code, the new development is in harmony with existing development in the area and does not adversely affect adjacent property, and considered needed infrastructure for services such as water, sewer, storm drain, transportation, fire and emergency services.
However, state water officials and the county engineer will have to further investigate water availability and other infrastructure concerns before “a shovel can touch the ground,” Councilman Robert Kilmer said.
Approval of the rezone and development agreement merely pave the way for Snowbasin to bring more detailed plans to the county for further approvals.
Zimmerman said Snowbasin would likely need four wells for their snowmaking equipment, and has plans for their own water and wastewater companies. Special improvement and special service districts are financing options for these, Parker said.
The development agreement details that roads will be built to county standards, and the owner will operate and maintain those roads for two years following construction. Afterward, and if the county determines that the revenue stream from the project is sufficient to pay for maintenance, the county will take over ownership of the roads.
If the level of service degrades over time, the county can ask Snowbasin to conduct traffic studies to identify the source of that degradation as well as how the developer can mitigate them. The flip side of the coin is that other sources in the area that contribute to the problem may also be asked to contribute to that mitigation.
The development agreement also contemplates the construction of a 12,000 square foot publis safety and emergency services building at the expense of Snowbasin for the use of the county.
Councilman Robert Kilmer was particularly concerned with emergency services agreement between the county and Snowbasin.
The council also expressed concerns over who would maintain planned biking, hiking and pedestrian trails. Some council members are concerned with the expense if the county takes over the trails, while others said such trails could be seen as a draw and boost to economic development.
“In that area, the community wants trails. They want walkability,” Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley said. She said she was satisfied with the flexibility of the development agreement, and the option the county had to not take over trails.
Zimmerman said that hard-surfaced bike and pedestrian trails, made of dirt or decomposed granite, is preferable to the “urban sidewalk solution” in a mountain development.
Despite what County Councilman Austin Turner calls the general public’s view that the new development will be a “massive scar on the mountainside,” Zimmerman said the development as a whole will not be very visible. If a motorist on Interstate 84 slowed down to 10 miles an hour and craned his neck, he may be able to see three or four buildings in the development, she said.