Snowbird wants to build seven homes in canyon
Development • Resort seeks county approval for a clustered subdivision, open-space reserve.
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Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is seeking to build a seven-lot subdivision north of the Little Cottonwood Canyon highway, just uphill from the resort's No. 3 entry.

The resort's request for a clustered development of seven single-family homes will be considered at 9 a.m. Wednesday by the Salt Lake County Planning Commission. The county planning staff is recommending approval.

Snowbird wants to develop the homes on 6.84 acres of relatively flat land north of the highway, along an existing driveway that curls back downhill to a home owned by Salt Lake City businessman Ian Cumming, most noted for an elevator shaft that connects a road-level garage and living quarters higher up.

Land for the units is part of 140 acres that spread up the steep, rocky crags on the west side of Mount Superior. Snowbird said those 133 acres will be preserved as open space.

To ensure the acreage remains open space in perpetuity, county planners are recommending it be transferred to a government entity or a third-party nonprofit group.

Dave Fields, Snowbird's vice president of operations, said the proposed homes are within the resort's base-area master plan approved by Salt Lake County in 2006.

"This is next to the highway, within our base village area right across the street from The Lodge at Snowbird, and it's within [Salt Lake County] Service Area No. 3, so there's sewer and water lines there," Fields said, noting that it is considerably lower on Mount Superior than the resort's previous proposal to build a mountain coaster.

In the past year, the mountain-coaster project was approved and later overturned by the county, then shifted by Snowbird onto resort land south of the highway, amid existing ski-area facilities.

The back-and-forth also prompted the county to rewrite FCOZ, the ordinance governing development in the "Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone." The ordinance permits clustering as long as the overall development density does not exceed one unit per 20 acres. This project's density is just under that threshold.

Noting that clustering disturbs less land by concentrating development on the most appropriate parcels, planning staffer Spencer Sanders said, "In this case, with significant slopes and sensitive lands and the fact that the property is in a watershed, a clustered development is very desirable."

He said the plan appears to meet other FCOZ requirements covering protections for streams, wildlife corridors, vegetation and slope stability. The Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, which governs watershed protection in the canyon, will weigh in during a technical review before final Planning Commission approval, Sanders added.

Cumming also would have to sign off on the project since his driveway would have to be widened and upgraded, providing room for an emergency service turnaround.

The proposal concerns Save Our Canyons Executive Director Carl Fisher.

"We perceive it as an expansion of the resort footprint," Fisher said. He maintained the residences would be built in an avalanche-prone area and also objected that Snowbird filed the application before the county finishes rewriting its FCOZ ordinance, a process still under way.

Both his group and Snowbird are on the commission rewriting the ordinance.

Snowbird is being represented before the Planning Commission by Darlene Batatian of Mountain Land Development Services.

A Planning Commission member who recuses herself from voting on proposals in which she is involved, Batatian also represents Service Area No. 3, which is on Wednesday's agenda seeking approval to build a structure above an old mining tunnel, off an upper Snowbird parking lot, where the resort's water supply is stored.

Sanders also is recommending approval of that project, which would allow Service Area staff to move out of Snowbird's fire station. The plan complies with FCOZ and will improve security at the water-storage portal, he said.

mikeg@sltrib.com

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Planning session

The Salt Lake County Planning Commission will meet 9 a.m. Wednesday in the first-floor council chambers of the North Building at the County Government Center, 2001 S. State St.