O.K., it won't literally have a fence around it, with gates for access. But if it follows in the footsteps of its namesake, Aspen, Colorado, it could become an economically gated community for the rich. Pictured at left, a typical unaffordable $9.5 million dollar "single family" McMansion in Aspen, CO.
Utah developer Dean Sellers wants to develop a whole new town in Wasatch County, to be located just a short distance southeast of Heber on U.S. Highway 40. The town will have skiing, shopping, high-end recreation, breathtaking vistas and everything one would want in a community. The land is surrounded by aspen and spruce trees and gazes on mountains. And, according to Sellers, there's only one name for it - Aspen. Full story published November 10th, 2007 in the Deseret Morning News. Another article on this project can be viewed HERE.
Click HERE to view map of proposed location.
Located 339 miles west of Aspen, Colorado, Aspen, Utah could become Utah's newest town — No. 245 — if Sellers meets requirements for incorporation. Thanks to Utah HB466, he claims he does.
HB466, which the Utah Legislature passed earlier this year, allows a town to incorporate if there are at least 100 residents and certain ownership and land value requirements are met. The bill also takes the final authority for incorporation away from county government and gives it to Lt. Governor Gary Herbert. If 50 percent of the residents and landowners support the petition, the county can't stand in the way of incorporation.
Sellers submitted a petition for incorporation to Wasatch County officials on Thursday November 8th. Within 45 days, he should know if he's got a town.
Of the 8,366-acre property, which has mostly been grazing land for the past century, Sellers owns 5,700 acres. He proposes to transform it into a mixed-use community, to include a "world-class" ski resort, golf course, hotels, upscale retail and commercial, lodges, town homes, condominiums, cabins and cottages on lots varying in size.
As the developer and major landowner, Sellers will have the power to select the pool of candidates for mayor and town council when the town incorporates. County Attorney Thomas Low said the Wasatch County Council will then make the selection from that pool.
A fourth-generation Arizonan, Sellers worked as a residential developer for 35 years. He met owners of the cattle property south of Heber City, near the mouth of Daniels Canyon, about seven years ago, and as things fell into place he began buying property and moved his family to Utah in 2004.
However, questions are already surfacing. Particularly about skiing. With 13 ski resorts already, can Utah's mountains support another? Jessica Kunzer, spokeswoman for Ski Utah, the marketing company owned and operated by the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association, reacted favorably. She claims there is so much potential for skiing in Utah's mountains that none of the existing resorts would feel threatened by an additional resort.
However, the strongest justification provided by Sellers is that he can build it using only his own financial resources. "The biggest winner out of this is going to be all of the Utahns", he said. "Every family in this state is going to be able to benefit from the huge revenue generated off of this bonanza". In addition, Sellers reminds us that it will instead generate property tax revenue for Wasatch County, in addition to both sales and income tax revenue for the state.
It will take 25 years or so to build out the 8,366-acre town, which can apply for cityhood when it reaches 1,000 residents.
Comments posted to the Deseret News story already reveal more concerns by mainstream Utahns. Of the 41 comments posted at the time of this post, around two-thirds are negative or in opposition to the project. Here's a representative sampling:
Aspen, Utah sounds great...a bunch of wealthy individuals come from out of state, drive up the property tax rates until the locals who lived there for years have to move out. There are no local winners with this type of development.
Steven Chapman 7:07 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
I think we could come up with another name than Aspen. Why copy Colorado? Maybe there needs to be a contest.
Kevin 7:25 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
I guess the guy owns the property so he should have the right to develop it BUT. Why does the whole west have to be a tourist trap ? Why does someone who already has money have to want so much more ? I was raised in areas such as Durango, CO and Moab, UT. As the towns turn from the locals to tourist traps they lose a lot of good character. If I were to model a town/development it sure as heck would not be Aspen. I agree 7:34 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
Why in the world name this Aspen? Aspen is well-known as a town in Colorado. It's a very dumb idea. Call it something else.
Sophisticated Easterner 7:50 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
This guy doesn't know skiing. The mountains on that side are not nearly high enough. I don't think that it will turn into anything. parkcity 8:05 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
Let's ruin more land to make play grounds for wealthy non-Utahans. Where do you find a slope in Utah that hasn't been slashed up in to make ski runs? Thank god Congressman from outside of Utah are trying to save Utah's public land from ORV use. Utahans just don't seem to take any pride in their outdoors. Does it follow that you must take pride in yourself before you can take some pride in where you live?
Bill 8:13 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
I preferred Utah 40 years ago when we had less than a million residents. We weren't always whining about air pollution and paying through the nose for water or made to feel like we were sinners for watering our lawns. We had good fishing and hunting, and children could play outside all day without their mothers worrying if they had been kidnapped and molested.
I've seen enough growth. Let the Eastern liberals and Hollywood liberals build fifth homes someplace else. Growth makes a few people millionaires; it just congests the rest of us.
Stupid Name 8:24 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
Oh, and I forgot to add. I think using the name of our famous competitor to the East is a very negative idea, to say the least. Deer Valley, which is the closest neighbor is continually rated as the #1 and #2 resort in all of No. America. Use Deer Valley as the bench-mark, and for heaven's sake get a name for the resort that will allow it to stand on its own!!
skier 9:30 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
This city will devastate the neighborhoods he is trying to enfold. This city is the device of one man named Dean Sellers. He bought some cattle free range and the only why he can develop it is to make it a city. It will destroy the ecology of the mountains. This is the only watershed around Heber valley which has not been damaged by development. Thousand of animals will die because of this so called city. Of 200 people who live in the only exisiting development there 175 of us signed the petition against his city. The government says he only needs up to 5 people who want his city. We all need to take a close look at the new laws for making cities DONT WE!.
BOB 9:55 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
Have you been to Aspen? Gross.
He's so busy bragging himself up into god-like status that he neglects to mentions things like the fact that businesses in Aspen have to bus employees 2+ hours to and from Grand Junction. The labor force can't afford to live any closer. Somebody shoot that white horse he's riding on right now, before it gets out of the gate.
Peanut 10:01 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
The article was wrong when it stated that the "approval" of the incorpoation was lifted from the Wasatch County Commission and given to the Lt. Governor. In fact, the Wasatch County Commission must give its approval and then send all corresponding documents to the Lt.Gov's office for the final certification. The Lt.Gov's office must certify the incorporation if it (the corp) has met all of the necessary statutory needs, such as approval from the county commission. FYI.
BGRommel 10:28 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
Sounds like a fiefdom controlled by a feudal lord.
Since he owns the largest majority of the property, it is probably posted against hunting.
For those who have not been to Aspen Colorado, it used to be a small friendly community. No more, it is a playground for the nouveau riche, corrupt corporate executives and politicians, movie stars and foreign dignitary's. A large number of people from the middle east, Saudi Arabia, etc also own land there.
No one that works there can afford to live there. They all live 'down valley' as it is known there.
I've spent a lot of time there, (working) and know a few people who are old timers there, and even they are having to move because of soaring property values and associated taxes.
A older 'era' house that would sell for $100,000.00 in SLC could bring a million or more in Aspen.
GoogleEarthRocks 10:42 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
And here's one positive or supportive comment, included because it brings out a useful point which can allay the concern of hunters:
I am all for the resort and town itself. With our burgeoning metro,direct trans-atlantic flights, and unparalled access, we are going to need that new Daybreak resort, expanded resorts around Ogden, and this one in Wasatch County. Our ski-industry is only going to continue to boom. I wouldn't be surprised to see the old Seven Peaks Resort re-resurrected.
Utah still has a huge and vast resource of prime hunting areas and always will with our vast BLM ownership.
Jim again 9:28 a.m. Nov. 10, 2007
Commentary: Many object to the proposed name of "Aspen". I share this objection - why name it after a Colorado resort? Aspen is irrevocably associated with Colorado. Furthermore, does the state that advertise itself as having "the greatest snow on earth" need to be copying someone else's name?
But a more fundamental concern is whether or not the proposed new community can remain affordable to the lower-wage service workers who'll be running the various enterprises at the ground level. Sellers seems to want to provide affordable housing for these people - but what's his definition of "affordable"? Can someone who can afford to build a city using only his own resources really grasp the concept of "affordable"? And furthermore, how long can it remain "affordable"?
At one time, similar resorts such as the real Aspen, along with Jackson Hole, were "affordable" to service workers. What happened? The pool of developable land shrunk. Contraction of supply met by expansion of demand made supply more valuable - and more expensive. Who expanded the demand? Rich outsiders - who bought up vast chunks land of land and built multi-million dollar McMansions.
And working-class advocate and author Barbara Ehrenreich describes this problem up in Jackson Hole, WY. In an article entitled "The Rich Have Priced the Outdoors out of Everyone Else's Hands", published on June 30th, 2007, she discusses the effects not only in Jackson Hole, but in nearby towns that have become less affordable for Jackson Hole service workers:
About ten years ago, for example, a friend and I rented a snug, inexpensive, one-bedroom house in Driggs ID, just over the Tetons from wealthy Jackson Hole. At that time, Driggs was where the workers lived, driving over the Teton Pass every day to wait tables and make beds on the stylish side of the mountains. The point is, we low-rent folks got to wake up to the same scenery the rich people enjoyed, and hike along the same pine-scented trails.
But the money was already starting to pour into Driggs -- Paul Allen of Microsoft, August Busch III of Anheuser-Busch, Harrison Ford -- transforming family potato farms into vast dynastic estates. I haven't been back, but I understand Driggs has become another unaffordable Jackson Hole. Where the waitstaff and bed-makers live today I do not know.
But Ehrenreich cites a possible downside for the nouveau-riche towns - and their rich inhabitants as well:
But the gentrification of rural American has a downside for the wealthy too. The more expensive a resort town gets, the further its workers have to commute to keep it functioning. And if your heart doesn't bleed for the dishwasher or landscaper who commutes two to four hours a day, at least shed a tear for the wealthy vacationer who gets stuck in the ensuing traffic. It's bumper to bumper westbound out of Telluride every day at five, or eastbound on Route 1 out of Key West, for the Lexuses as well as the beat-up old pick-up trucks.
Then there's the elusive element of charm, which quickly drains away in a uniform population of multi-millionaires. The Hamptons had their fishermen. Key West still advertises its "characters" -- sun-bleached, weather-beaten, misfits who drifted down for the weather or to escape some difficult situation on the mainland. But the fishermen are long gone from the Hamptons and disappearing from Cape Cod. As for Key West's "characters": With the traditional little "conch houses" once favored by shrimpers going for a million and up, these human sources of local color have to be prepared to sleep with the scorpions under the highway overpass.
In Telluride, even a local developer is complaining about the lack of affordable housing. "To have a real town," he told the Financial Times, "Telluride needs some locals hanging out" -- in old-fashioned diners, for example, where you don't have to speak Italian to order a cup of coffee.
Certainly we don't want to tell a private property owner what to do with his land any more than is absolutely necessity. When society starts micro-managing private property owners, that's international socialism, more correctly referred to as "Communism" (in contrast with national socialism, which, when properly applied, puts the interests of the nation first). However, a project of this magnitude, with so many potential impacts on the public interest, requires the closest possible scrutiny. It is imperative that Utah citizens, and, in particular, the residents of the Heber area, do NOT allow government to rubber-stamp this project.