This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Several Republicans on the Salt Lake County Council don't like it, but the county moved Tuesday toward chipping in to the effort to preserve 1,350 acres of popular open space that's accessible through Big Cottonwood Canyon ahead of a nearing deadline.
In County Mayor Ben McAdams' mid-year budget presentation, he suggested the council could contribute $1.5 million from a tourism and recreation fund to join other public bodies hoping to prevent development at the area known as Bonanza Flats.
Repeating a debate from March, when the council rejected on a party-line vote a proposal to contribute $3 million to the fundraising effort, the three Republicans present Tuesday lashed out against the effort to use the mid-year budgeting process to contribute toward preservation of Bonanza Flats.
"This has come up awfully fast here," said Councilman Richard Snelgrove, an at-large Republican. "I think we should be ashamed of ourselves."
Cities, counties and private groups hoping to preserve the area have until June 15 to raise $38 million to purchase the property. Ongoing fundraising efforts are around $4 million shy of that total.
The council's March rejection appeared to put Salt Lake County at a dead end with no easy way to revisit the matter. That changed at a Monday meeting of the board that oversees the Tourism, Recreation, Cultural and Convention fund, a pool of money raised by various county taxes.
The board unanimously supported the money for Bonanza Flats, as well as $1 million for other conservation issues near the canyons, a bathroom in Big Cottonwood Canyon, turf field in Magna, and other expenses.
The concept came before the council Tuesday, where it led to a heated debate. Republicans accused the idea's supporters of being opaque and Democrats said spending public money on preserving the open space was in the best interests of county residents.
"If we decide to put another mega-development at the top of the bridge between the counties there on that flat, we will regret it," Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said. "I believe that in my heart and soul."
Park City voters approved a $25 million bond toward the effort. Other counties have also contributed, but the effort remains about $4 million short.
Republicans on the council joined together in March to defeat a request to approve $3 million for the effort. Supporters are relying on private donations and haven't given up on a contribution by Salt Lake County to move them closer to meeting the purchase price.
The council voted 5-2 to move toward including it in the mid-year budget. Snelgrove joined Democrats in support of the motion which gives Republicans a chance to join together to block county funding for Bonanza Flats during debate in the next two weeks.
Councilman Max Burdick, a Republican who supporters view as a possible swing vote, did not vote.
Republican Councilman Michael Jensen wasn't present for the vote, while Republican Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, who opposed the effort in March, said Tuesday she was still skeptical of the latest push because the area is outside Salt Lake County.
She and Snelgrove said the county should look inward if it wants to buy properties."If we do have open space funds they should be spent here in our county because we have needs here," she said.
The council is expected to finalize the 2017 budget on June 20.