This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After months of lobbying from both sides, the Salt Lake County Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to support the creation of a Central Wasatch Commission.
This seven-member board will be composed of a representative from the state Department of Transportation and the six local governments most heavily involved in issues concerning the central Wasatch Mountain canyons.
Their charge, over the next 50 years, will be to try to carry out the goals of the Mountain Accord, a three-year plan for dozens of stakeholders trying to find a consensus about what needs to be done to protect the canyons' "water, lands, environment, recreational opportunities [and] economic prosperity" while building "a transportation system that serves these values."
In a rare show of unity, Save Our Canyons and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort were vocal supporters after participating extensively in the process.
But the commission's roots in the Mountain Accord also fueled opposition to its creation. A number of private-property owners in the canyons have been just as outspoken in their criticism, feeling their interests were disregarded in a process driven by environmentalists and ski resorts.
A property-owners association filed a lawsuit, accusing Mountain Accord of violating open-meetings and -records laws. In addition, calls have been made to audit the $7.5 million it spent between 2013-15 and the $2.5 million it is forwarding to the Central Wasatch Commission.
The latest came Tuesday from a typically less critical source, the Association of Community Councils Together (ACCT), whose spokeswoman Nancy Carlson-Gotts said community council leaders from around the valley viewed the commission as "another layer of government that is unnecessary and cumbersome."
Several County Council members said they shared some of those perceptions when the Central Wasatch Commission concept was first brought to council members last fall.
But over the past few months, said Republican Michael Jensen and Democrat Jenny Wilson, a number of revisions were made that will:
• Ensure that the commission's authority does not supersede local governments'.
• Limit its ability to raise revenue through taxes and fees.
• Require individual members to go back to their entities for approval if the commission wants to acquire property, sue or be sued, or charge a fee.
The agreement also requires all gatherings of the commission and its 28- to 35-member advisory committee to be open.
"I never questioned the intent [of creating the commission], but there were things that stood out as concerns," said Wilson, contending that the recent revisions minimized many of her qualms, including the appointment of an at-large County Council member to the commission.
"We have to be diligent and value this role," she said.
Her Democratic colleague Arlyn Bradshaw argued that the county's interests would be well-served working in a collaborative process with Salt Lake City, Cottonwood Heights, Sandy, an official from Park City or Summit County, and another from UDOT to identify ways to tackle the problems confronting canyons that are beloved by the populace but in danger of being overrun.
Republican Councilman Richard Snelgrove was not convinced by those arguments and cast the lone dissenting vote.
"Why do we need this when the existing stewards [of the canyons] have done a good job?" he asked, referring to the county's land-use planning on private lands, Salt Lake City's watershed protection and the U.S. Forest Service's management of public lands.
The other three cities on the commission would have to approve the interlocal agreement for it to be ratified, prompting Jensen to warn that "if one of the other three comes back with [substantive] changes, I'm out."