Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Powder Mountain Officials Unveil New Development Proposal - Will Rely More On Open Space, But Increase Residential Units To 3,950

Powder Mountain

Officials representing the Powder Mountain ski resort unveiled their new proposal on Tuesday July 8th, 2008 at a Weber County Commission meeting attended by an estimated 100 Ogden Valley residents. They promised to drop an incorporation bid if Weber County officials sign off on a development agreement. Media stories provided by the Salt Lake Tribune, accessible to everyone, and the Digital Edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, which is accessible only to paid subscribers. Fortunately, the Weber County Forum has thoughtfully provided us with an image of the Standard-Examiner's article, available HERE. The Ogden Valley blog, another front line resource, also provides an analysis. The new plan is somewhat of a double-edged sword.

On the positive side, it would rely more on already-existing open space. The previous plan, although resulting in a smaller development, would have potentially swallowed up a big portion of the community of Eden.

On the negative side, it would increase the number of projected residential or dwelling units to 3,950. Note that this total does NOT include the additional 900+ residential units to be separately accessible from the Cache County side of the resort to the north.

Brooke Hontz, the Powder Mountain project manager, explained the plan. First, Hentz narrowed it down to two options: Achieving an agreement on a new development, or continuing to pursue incorporation, which would occur under the provisions of the original SB466. [Ed. Note: There's also a third option, called "litigation", but hopefully this can be avoided.]

Then Hontz presented the specifics. Among the leading highlights:

- Max density of 0.62 units per acre.
- Additional 1,800 acres overall.
- Increasing dwelling units from 2,800 to 3,950.

And it's that last issue which immediately attracted fire. Locals believe a resort with 3,950 dwelling and hotel units is too dense for the mountain and would overburden State Highway 158, the steep, narrow road leading to the resort. Under those circumstances, the benefits of decreasing the density per acre would be offset by increasing the overall quantity allowed; the projected traffic on the access road would still INCREASE despite the decreased density per acre. And the rough terrain imposes limits on just how much the access road can be expanded. To illustrate: Years of diddling with and expanding U.S. Highway 189, Provo Canyon Road, have still not made it much safer, although most of the hazards are caused by reckless drivers.

One resident recommended that if the county changes zoning to allow Powder Mountain to build thousands of units, the developers should kick in big money for open space preservation on the valley floor, as the general plan prescribes. But this solution would still not mitigate the road access problem.

Powder Mountain officials are starting to feel the pressure and flashed a bit of impatience at the meeting. Brooke Hontz rejected as unfair the assertion by some that the resort is using incorporation to blackmail the county into approving the project. "It's simply not true," she said after the meeting. "We were asked to come back by the county and now we're being chastised." But local residents will not give up their fight until their basic concerns are satisfied.

And those basic concerns remain unchanged. Kirk Langford, a resident of Eden, once again reiterated the fact that the project is too big and will lead to congestion and pollution, which not only will be detrimental to the quality of life in the area, but that will also hurt Ogden's attempt to market itself as a "must-visit" outdoors destination. After all, Ogden should build on their recent billing by Outside Magazine as the "third best reinvented city" in the United States (this did not mean the third most liveable city, but the third best city in terms of turning itself around).

Weber County Commissioners chose not to make any decisions as a result of the July 8th meeting.

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