Saturday, February 2, 2008

Storm Haven Annexation May Scuttle Arizona Carpetbagger Dean Sellers' Proposed Aspen, Utah "Shangri-La"; Powder Mountain Still On Horizon

Well, it looks like Arizona carpetbagger Dean Sellers may have to get on his white horse and ride into the sunset with his saddlebags a bit lighter than he originally thought. Full stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News. Click HERE to view all previous posts on this issue.

On Friday evening, February 1st, 2008, the Daniel, Utah Town Council may have inflicted a fatal blow upon Sellers' plan to build a "world-class apres-ski Shangri-La" on his 8,366 acre parcel in Wasatch County south of Daniel by voting UNAMINOUSLY to annex Storm Haven. Without Storm Haven, Sellers lacks the necessary population to proceed with the incorporation of his proposed town.

Storm Haven resident and petitioner Kasey Bateman, along with his neighbors along U.S. 40 at the mouth of Daniels Canyon, sought the last-minute annexation into Daniel because they feared becoming part of Aspen could drive them from their homes. Their petition was filed November 8th, just hours before Sellers filed his petition to incorporate his proposed town, which he planned to call "Aspen". As a result, Wasatch County Commissioner Brent Titcomb rejected the Aspen petition. In a related development, Daniels also approved the annexation of the Little Sweden subdivision, although they were under no threat from Sellers.

"It's one of the best things that could have happened," Bateman said following the vote. "Hopefully [Sellers] will now leave us alone, so we can go about living our lives."

Dean Sellers, the developer who was proposing the Aspen development, was absent from the meeting. Neither he nor any representatives from his company, West Daniels Land Association, made comments during the public hearings. However, Sellers has no inclination to "leave them alone"; he's filed two suits, one with the Utah Supreme Court, alleging that the annexation is flawed, and another suit against Wasatch County for rejecting Aspen's incorporation petition. But while the courts have agreed to allow the suits to proceed, they refused to grant a temporary injunction stopping the annexation of Storm Haven.

The now infamous HB466 created the problem. Passed by the Utah State Legislature, it liberalized the criteria required for a developer to form a town. Rep. Mel Brown (R-Coalville) sponsored the original law, but now that he's seen how predatory developers have abused it, both in the Wasatch Valley, and now up in the Ogden Valley, he's submitted a draft bill, HB164, which changes HB466 by stiffening the requirements for incorporation. On the Senate side, Sen. Dennis Stowell (R-Parowan), has already produced SB25 to accomplish the same purpose. It's probably a good thing it's also being worked in the Senate, because, according to the Tribune, the House bill has stalled, most likely to reconcile it with the Senate version.

The sense of urgency has been increased by the fact that the Powder Mountain Ski Resort has capitalized on HB466 to submit an incorporation petition of its own, which has triggered a firestorm of opposition in the Ogden Valley. Local residents fear a serious degradation of their quality of life due to expected exponential increases in traffic and pollution. There's also concern about emergency access and evacuation in case of wildfire, as well as water supply issues (which abruptly moved to the front burner this past week with two breaks in the main water line in North Ogden).

Two local blogs, the Weber County Forum and the Ogden Valley blog, have been leading the publicity charge on this issue. You can view all of the Weber County Forum's posts on this issue HERE (and by the way, I appreciate the kind remarks they made about Voice Of Deseret). Nearly every recent post on the Ogden Valley blog has been about this issue; all can be viewed simultaneously HERE. There seems to be a perception that Ogden Valley is being snubbed while Cache Valley is being stroked; a possible divide-and-conquer scenario.

This Powder Mountain project is not penny-ante; I saw a map, and the proposed town of Powder Mountain is three times as large as the ski resort itself.

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