Friday, June 13, 2008

Good News For Ogden Valley Residents: Powder Mountain Incorporation On Hold, May Re-direct Towards Cache County

Powder Mountain

The proposed plan by the Powder Mountain ski resort in Northern Utah to dramatically expand in size and to incorporate as a town has been put on hold, as the organizers mull over a plan to re-direct the expansion away from the Ogden Valley and towards the Cache Valley instead. Reported on June 13th by the Logan Herald-Journal, the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5; a more detailed story published June 11th by the Salt Lake Tribune. Previously discussed on this blog HERE and HERE.

The deadline for any agreement is at the end of August, and county officials say they still have several concerns about the project. However, Powder Mountain spokeswoman Nicole Cottle told the Cache County Council on Tuesday June 10th that ski resort owners, who own most of the land that would be incorporated, agreed nearly two months ago, in early March, to postpone the incorporation of a new town.

Powder Mountain owners announced a plan to expand the ski resort on a huge scale, increasing the size of the ski area and adding housing, condominiums, shopping malls and restaurants. But when county officials in both Weber and Cache Counties, where the 7,960-acre ski resort is proposed, declined to support the project, investors from the Western America Holding Company announced plans to form the new town of Powder Mountain using then-newly passed legislation. Although more restrictive legislation was subsequently passed, Powder Mountain is grandfathered under the more liberal law in effect at the time of their proposal.

The proposed incorporation triggered a firestorm of local protest. Leading the charge was the Weber County Forum and the Ogden Valley blog, both of which worked hard to mobilize public opinion against the proposal. Not only were fears about increased traffic and pollution expressed, but some locals even picketed the resort. A part of the community of Eden would have been swallowed up by the proposed new town. Further fueling the controversy was an effort by Arizona carpetbagger Dean Sellers to incorporate his Wasatch Valley holdings into a proposed town of "Aspen", but this effort was quashed twice by the Utah Supreme Court. So locals were understandably concerned about the possibility that outsiders were coming in en masse to swallow up their community.

But the Weber County option has not been totally ruled out. Weber County Commissioner Craig Dearden and Nicole Cottle said the negotiations are continuing, although the Weber County Commission hasn't taken any formal action on the Powder Mountain proposal. "Weber County understands that they're the [services] provider of choice because they're the provider of necessity", Cottle said. "We would gladly work with both parties for what they desire".

Cache County Attorney George Daines said he was disappointed that the project planners failed to notify northern Utah officials about the change, which significantly and unfavorably alters Cache County's financial risks related to the provision of roads, water and emergency services in the resort area. "If you're not incorporated, all of those financial responsibilities fall back onto the county. Those are lively questions again", Daines said.

Update: Since this post, Weber County Forum posted their own update on June 14th, in which they expressed concern that the local politicos don't "give away the store" during these negotiations.

Commentary: The Powder Mountain operators seemed to have learned some public relations lessons from Dean Sellers, who used a hammer to try to bludgeon Wasatch County into fast-tracking and rubber-stamping his proposed Aspen development, and ended up failing miserably. So far, Nicole Cottle has "done all the right things" and "said all the right things", so to speak.

Which is probably a good thing. It appears any efforts to play Weber County and Cache County against one another might not succeed. Indeed, Cache County residents have already shown they are no pushovers. They've been raising hell about the proposed Ruby Pipeline, an oil conduit which would cut across a portion of the Cache Valley. The pipeline operators chose that option because they did not want to get involved in an expensive legal battle with the Federal government to route the pipeline through Federal land in Idaho. So Powder Mountain might want to proceed with caution.

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