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Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams thought he had balanced a lot of divergent interests in his nine nominees (plus two alternates) for the new Mountainous Planning Commission.
But a majority of the County Council took exception to his nomination of Laura Briefer, a major advocate of watershed protection as deputy director of Salt Lake City's public utilities department, and voted last week to reject her.
They did so despite McAdams' warning that if they did, he would respond by withdrawing his nominations of two people affiliated with Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort.
"It doesn't serve the county well to cut one interest group and keep the rest as is," he said. And he followed through after the council's 6-3 vote (Democrat Sam Granato joined the five Republicans), pulling the names of Kate McGuinness and Neil Cohen from consideration.
McGuinness leads Snowbird's retail and rental division, while Cohen works part time in customer service there. He also has been on the County Planning Commission, which previously oversaw regulation of land-use issues in Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood canyons, so his inclusion was designed to provide continuity between what's happened and what's to come.
Removing those three candidates left the Mountainous Planning Commission with six members enough for a quorum with the two alternates sitting in until suitable replacements are picked.
The board, which also will oversee Mill Creek Canyon, will include two holdover County Planning Commission members Tod Young and Bryan O'Meara and former commercial real-estate attorney Catherine Kanter, Millcreek resident Linda Johnson, retired Cottonwood Heights hazards-mitigation manager Roger Kehr and environmental and recreational consultant Reid Persing.
The alternates are former Holladay City Councilman Jim Palmer and Big Cottonwood Canyon resident Don DeSpain.
At the insistence of Councilmen Steve DeBry and Michael Jensen, McAdams said he would look for one of his three replacement nominees to be someone from the valley's west side.
McAdams said he understood that yearning, but only one of about 50 applicants had come from west of Interstate 15. West Jordan-based DeBry, in particular, said he would talk to community leaders in his area to come up with an appropriate candidate.
That would leave two nominees to complete the mayor's balancing act.
McAdams had looked to Briefer as an authority on watershed protection and as a balance to the development interests represented by the ski resorts and other private property owners in the canyons.
But the resistance was unwavering.
First, three speakers raised objections to her appointment during the public comment section of the council meeting, including Marty Banks, an attorney representing Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude ski resorts.
They all felt it was unfair for Salt Lake City to have so much influence over the process since it already has extraterritorial authority through its watershed-protection mandate.
Democratic Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said she believes the activist role taken by Salt Lake City "has led to a better canyon."
Her party colleague, Councilman Jim Bradley, said he thought it was a little unjust to single out one nominee based on objections from three people and suggested she could be appointed to a one-year seat on the planning commission to see how things work out.
But Republican Councilman Michael Jensen said it wasn't just the three speakers, it was the 30 other emails he had received.
"In the time I've been here," said Jensen, a councilman since 2001, "I can't remember a person nominated to a board raise this level of concern. I have reservations because of the sheer number of people who say they would prefer someone else. I'm going to listen to those folks."
Added Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove, also a Republican: "The conflict of interest with Salt Lake City is so strong."
McAdams' main goal was to get the planning commission up and running so that it has a track record that he can take to the Legislature next session to get the concept extended past a June 1 expiration date.