Saturday, April 29, 2006

Clumsy Maps from Clumsy Politicians and Developer Wannabees

One of our gentle readers sent us an email a couple of days ago, with a link to a local website. The site's article is very well-written, and is entirely germane to most of the discussion we've been entertaining here at Weber County Forum lately:

Whether we should sell the last remaining open space on the whole over-developed Wasatch Front benchlands to a so-called "developer" whose only so-far-revealed development credential is marrying the Billionaire Boss's daughter and unavalingly sucking up to the Sinclair Oil executives -- in case you've somehow forgotten, or are a "newbie" here -- is an entirely open question.

This excellent article is too lengthy to post here in full; so we are furnishing a link, for our gentle readers' convenience.

As a former U.S. army troop, your humble blogmeister's attention was immediately drawn to the map. Our initial U.S. Army MOS was artillery survey; and we're still fascinated by good maps, even 30 years after "mustering out." We attribute this odd aberration also, in part, to our junior high-school geometry and trigonometry instructors, BTW, for instilling this jaded interest. When we walk the Ogden city trails, we always take along our Garmin GPS device too, along with our enormous Alaskan Malemute, who ALWAYS knows the quickest and most efficient way to get back to the car (on the trails,) with her evolutionarily-developed and purely biological GPS system. What a pity it is that we still lack the technology to site-map two-year-old Denali's dog/wolf brain.

Rumor has it that one of the more "activist" map-oriented and community-minded WSU professors has produced a "Proposed Golf Course Map," that would include "contour lines," in addition to Mayor Godfrey's totally-lame Mt. Ogden Parkland/Peterson Golf Course "overlay."

We are unabashedly requesting that somebody email us a link to that....

It's OUR opinion in the meantime, however, having examined the map, and being familiar with the entire subject property from the time of our early youth, that the described "more playable" golf course, if ever constructed on the described site -- will require significant quantities of dynamite for its construction.

Update 4/30/06 12:56 a.m. MT: Lo and belold (and as luck would have it,) one of our gentle readers has just emailed us the map we'd been hearing about.

"Yep, I have been working on a map overlaying the "greatly improved" golf course on a topographic base map," says our gentle reader. "I've just uploaded it to the Ogden Sierra Club web site." "I'm no golfer," our reader discloses, "but perhaps you or your gentle readers can comment on the design with more authority."

Be sure to click on the link within the Sierra Club article's text for a graphic representation of the area topography. It compares the site layout slope angle of the new proposed course with the existing one. It's quite an eye-opener, we think.

Well, what about it, gentle readers? Lets hear it from our golfers and map-readers. Does this excellent new map describe a "more playable" golf course than we one we already have right now?

The comment session is open.

Friday, April 28, 2006


"Q: Do the plans include the gondola connecting to Snowbasin?

A: Yes, the plans do involve a leg of the gondola that would go to the top of the mountain which would allow skiers with a Snowbasin lift ticket to enter Snowbasin."

Standard-Examiner ad
Submitted by the office of
Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey

Ogden City Update
April 20, 2006

"The word 'yes' implies a future connection between the two resorts, which is wrong. The real answer to that is 'no,' and that is something I made plain to the mayor last year. And I made it plain to Chris Peterson."

Clint Ensign
Senior vice-president
Sinclair Oil Company

April 28, 2006

"It only says that from the top of the mountain you can access the resort. That language is trying to to say that from the proposed link that goes to the top of the mountain you can, as a matter of geography, go to Snowbasin."

Ogden City Mayor
Matthew Godfrey

April 28, 2006

Bob Geiger, chairman of Lift Ogden, a group of businesses and individuals supporting the gondola proposal, agreed that the question seemed to imply a connection. He said he was taking that question off the Lift Ogden Web site immediately. "That statement splits hairs. The fact of the matter is the guy from Sinclair is right and we'll eliminate it."

Bob Geiger
Lift Ogden Chair

April 28, 2006

They were merely using the word allow in the strictly "geographical" sense, you see. They didn't actually come out and say Snowbasin would allow it! Yeah... That's the ticket!

Oh what a tangled web we weave...


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wimps Need Not Apply For Ogden Government

Is the present sitting Ogden City Council hopelessly infected with the RDA Disease?

Dr. Rudi's initial medico-political professional diagnosis: Yes.

We couldn't believe our eyes when we read this Std-Ex story .

The moribund and Godfrey-lackey city council apparently agreed last night to borrow the Shupe-Williams wind-fall insurance payoff from Ogden city, and to plow it all into the Ogden City-Godfrey Real Estate Crap-Shoot.

Did they vote to apply it to the rotting water infrastructure, whereby some Ogden residents get big chunks of red metal, when they try to pour a glass of water from their kitchen taps?

No. Ogdenites will continue to pour their tap-water through seives, and recycle the metallic chunklets @ Bloom Recylers.

Did the council decide to apply this $2.5 Million to some of the overhanging public debt that currently plagues this city?

No. They'll take the Shupe-Williams windfall and roll the dice at Wendover. Bobby Geiger will be whispering in their ear. "Screw the infastructure," Bob will say. "We can go properly broke later."

Is there even a reason to HAVE an Ogden City Council?

No. They are now a pack of brain-numbed Godfrey rubber-stamp lackeys, just like the LAST city council.

Most of the current council seems to have caught Matt Godfrey's RDA disease, we believe. It appears to be highly contagious, according to recent local epidemiologico-political evidence.

The RDA will borrow the $2.5 million windfall from Ogden city, and apply it to the ridiculous Godfrey "River Project" without even batting a blurry eye.

Then Godfrey will re-sell it to a developer croney at a loss; and claim he's a friggin' real estate genius. That is Godfrey's proven MO: "Giveaway Godfrey," they'll call him in the history books!

Applying this chunk of windfall money to the Riverfront Project is worse than reckless, we submit. We at Weber County Forum are assuming that the councilpeople who voted for this were in some kind of Godfrey-induced stuporous hypnotic coma and will be later able to supply an exculpatory note from their psychiatrist(s) to explain this logical aberration.

Wethinks there will be several other city councilpersons ejected in the next election, along with the evil Mayor, Matt Godfrey.

It's truly sad that we can't just eject this whole corrupt and mind-numbed bunch right now, and fill their 8 seats right away.

Well... we can't do that, unfortunately.... the government has rules about kicking out incompetents.

This is something we predict, however.

The rest of them -- Safsten, Stephenson and Godfrey will be looking for private-sector jobs by late November 2007.

None of the new council, nor any of them who were elected most recently (Jeske excepted, and Stephens, possibly) will ever be elected to Ogden City public offices again.

Ogden city is tired of "wimps."

We'll keep politicking until we elect a slate of candidates who are fiscally-responsible, morally straight, have a "set" of "brass...youknowwhats..." and also know the meaning of the word "NO."

And that's our post for this day, thank you very much.

The time of reckoning is dawning, we think, sooner for some,... later for others.

Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One Utah City Kills Idea to Sell Piece of Park

Here's another cheery news tidbit, submitted by one of our attentive readers, that ought to gladden the hearts of local citizen activists. It appears officials in another Utah city recently have gotten at least one land-use decision right. Democracy is alive and well in South Jordan, Utah, evidently.

In the face of strong citizen opposition, South Jordan municipal officials recently dropped a plan to sell a mere four acres of the city's 300 acres of public parkland. They dropped it like a hot potato, in fact.

A municipal government that responded to the will of its own citizens -- now there's a novelty.

Who knows? Perhaps we'll be reading a similar headline in the Standard-Examiner some time soon. There's a local lesson in this story, we think. While we at Weber County Forum don't have much confidence in the citizen responsiveness of our own mayoral administration, we do believe we can rely on our new city council to exercise a little common sense, and possibly demonstrate a more pronounced tendency toward democratic citizen input.

That's what we think. And what do our gentle readers think? Hmmm?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Comparing Words and Deeds

Your humble blogmeister begs his gentle readers' indulgence this morning for neglecting to post any new material over the past several days. Rudi has been immersed in local partisan politics since late last week, and the demands of his political party have temporarily interfered, unfortunately, with his self-appointed obligation to supply his Weber County Forum readership with ample quantities of fresh, intellectually nutritious "red meat."

Several interesting items were deposited in the WCF email inbox over the weekend, though; and we thought it would be fitting to launch a new discussion thread this morning with one of those: a Standard-Examiner reader letter that appeared in the Saturday edition. Cal Hansen of North Ogden posits that the Ogden Townsfolk ought to judge Chris Peterson NOT by his many promises, but by his proven performance to date. Mr. Hansen asks the important question, Do we want Chris Peterson for a neighbor?

Mr. Hansen refers to some Sierra Club documentation. You can view some of that material here on the Ogden Sierra Club website. Perhaps these photos constitute evidence relevant to Mr. Peterson's most recent meme -- that he intends to develop his property only according to "green development principles."

Chris Peterson is glibly making many promises to this community, in order to induce us into transferring our last remaing east bench undeveloped property to him. For a quick rundown of Chris's sales pitch, you can find summations here, here and other places on the web. Whether it is proper for Mr. Peterson's promises to be aggressively displayed on the Ogden City website (The Ogden City Council expressly denies having come out in favor of the project) presents a separate question, of course.

We at Weber County Forum believe however that Mr. Hansen's letter raises a very fundamental question that is worthy of careful examination.

Do Chris Peterson's past deeds demonstrate that he is worthy of our future trust?

Please chime in, gentle readers. We believe it's time for a full discussion of this issue.

Anyone who can offer examples of circumstaances where Chris Peterson has ever performed as promised are invited. So far we have no evidence that Chris Peterson has accompished anything notable in life... save marrying a Billionaire's daughter.

The floor is open for your always gentle comments. It's time to roll up our sleeves -- and get back into the blogging groove.

Comments... anyone?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sell the park?

By Sandra L. Crosland
Standard-Examiner Guest Commentary
Original publication: Thursday, April 13, 2006

Like so many American youngsters, I grew up with a soft spot, even a sense of guilt, about American Indians. After all, they had once owned the spacious skies, amber waves of grain and purple mountains' majesty.

Still, they lost almost everything, not because they didn't value it, but because their sense of common ownership rendered them inadequate as protectors of their treasure. If we do not learn from history, we Ogdenites could easily fall prey to this same fate. Our foothills, our park and golf course are our common treasure.

Once we created a General Plan placing the highest value on this asset. Our city has won national accolades because of its convenient public access to our outdoor spaces.

Today public ownership of this treasure is under siege. An aggressive, wealthy developer has joined forces with our mayor in an attempt to convince us that we should sell out our children's most valuable public inheritance.

A spokesman for Lift Ogden has stated that we should help Mr. Chris Peterson develop his land. Mr. Peterson recently bought mountain property in Weber County with trails that had been used for generations. His land is zoned as open space, and he is charged with constructive knowledge that the Ogden community placed great value on the open space designation of its foothills.

Because Utah respects both individual property rights and development rights, Mr. Peterson may follow legally prescribed processes to request a change in zoning that, depending upon the feasibility of his project, might allow him to construct his proposed resort. However, Mr. Peterson has expanded his vision for an exclusive, gated community onto our public property, and this part of his plan stands on different footing. We, the public, are going to be asked to sell the crown jewel of our community -- the open space along our foothills where Ogdenites golf, walk, run, bike, cross-country ski, sled, tube and snowshoe alongside the beauty and solitude of nearby canyons.

Before we acquiesce to such a sale, we should evaluate the benefits and the risks of trusting our park lands and public golfing facility to a developer whose primary goal is private gain rather than public good. If we will sell out ownership and control of this land, 400 homes may fill that space. In your long-range vision for your community, is Mr. Peterson's development the highest and best use for your park land? These are critical issues for all of us to consider. Positive economic development is not simply a "yes" or "no" decision in helping Mr. Peterson.

Worse yet, if we give up ownership and control of our park, what does our city administration propose that Ogdenites get in exchange? The rumor is that we get an urban gondola, which would cost at least $25 million to construct and millions more to operate each year. No one expects that this gondola would function as effective public transportation for our community. At best, the gondola would be a high-risk tourist attraction. At worst, it would be both a community eyesore creating neighborhood voyeurs and a money pit, not only for its construction costs but also its maintenance costs, and incalculable shortfall costs if it does not attract the hundreds of thousands of riders needed to break even.

Would an urban gondola be what you would want in return for the sale of our park? Once again, we, the public, need a voice in crafting our future.

If the sale of the park generates millions of dollars, what is the highest and best use of these funds? After all, much of what has not been done in Ogden has been forgone for lack of funds. Would you prefer to help fund a Latino market, or the Union Station, or pave more of our trails, or provide grants or loans in our historic downtown?

Because this new money would be public, any proposal, including Mr. Peterson's, should undergo a rigid risk-benefit analysis to demonstrate to the public that potential gain outweighs potential losses. Rumors pairing the sale of our foothills and golf course in exchange for an urban gondola sound too much like selling the island of Manhattan for baubles and trinkets of the tourist trade. History tells us who came out on top in that land deal, but the New Yorkers who descended from the purchasers did learn something: At the end of the 19th century, they agreed to set aside a chunk of their city as Central Park. Preserving that park has had to withstand hundreds of challenges. Early on, a small group of wealthy New Yorkers wanted a speedway to race their carriages. Another plan was conversion into an airport. But always the public good has triumphed over the private gain.

Is there a lesson here for Ogden?

Crosland lives in Ogden. This thoughtful article was brought to our attention by an alert reader, and is re-published here with the author's consent.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nothing But Gondolas -- Updated

In our recent effort to become the blog that is all about gondolas, and nothing but gondolas, we are incorporating three morning edition Standard-Examiner articles that speak to the gondola issue from three different perspectives.

First, Scott Schwebke reports that the Ogden City Council passed a resolution at last night's meeting, opening the door to the public process:

OGDEN — City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday night that sets the wheels in motion for fact-finding and public input for a $500 million proposal that includes the possible sale of Mount Ogden Golf Course to developer Chris Peterson.

The council members made it clear in approving the resolution that they have not taken a position on the proposal, but want extensive public involvement before making a decision that could have a longlasting and profound impact on the city’s future.

“It’s going to have a weighty impact on Ogden,” said Councilman Doug Stephens. “It’s important that we do it the right way.”

The resolution instructs the City Council’s staff to develop a comprehensive public input process on Peterson’s proposal.

It will set out how the council discusses the plan with other groups that may be affected, such as the city’s Planning Commission, Weber County, Weber State University, Utah Transit Authority, and the Utah Department of Transportation.

The City Council will also likely hold a series of public meetings and workshops as part of the fact-finding process.

Councilman Brandon Stephenson said it is vital that the board formulate an “educated opinion” before making a decision on the proposal.

Councilwoman Amy Wicks agreed, adding residents and stakeholders must be kept informed about the process. “It’s important that it be an open, transparent process so that everyone is aware of what’s going on,” she said.

The council has not established a time frame for the public input process or voting on Peterson’s proposal.
Weber County Forum is keeping its fingers crossed that the ensuing public process will indeed be transparent, informative and robust. It also seems to us that one of the first matters of business ought to be obtaining independent appraisals for the Mt. Ogden parkland property, so we will have more than just a vague idea of what that magnificent property is really worth in economic terms, before we start in on the horse-trading.

The Std-Ex also features a thought-provocative "he said-she said," "duelling guest commentary" series on the editorial page today, in response to the question, "Should Ogden build a gondola?

Stephen L. Richey unabashedly compares "entrepreneur" Chris Peterson to formidible Ogden industry captains of old, and invokes the names of Browning, Eccles, Kiesel, Wattis, among others. Whether Mr. Peterson's name belongs on this illustrious list remains an open question to many of us. Perhaps we'll learn a lot more about this heretofore very secretive man, and his true financial capacity and intentions, as the public process now begins to unfold.

Jay Hudson offers a unique (and sorely neglected) perspective too, we think. His commentary focuses on the donative nature of the Mt. Ogden parkland property, and the possible negative impact upon Ogden City philanthropy, as "can do" "willow in the wind" Ogden politicians yet again pursue the "silver bullet" public project du jour, and move toward "cashing out" another generously-donated public parkland gift.

And don't forget today's Chris Peterson "open house," which will be held from noon til six in the WSU Union Ballroom C today. For those of us eager to get "up front and personal" with Chris, today's event presents a fantastic opportunity, we think.

The floor is open. What's on out gentle readers' minds today?

Update 4/20/06 4:47 p.m. MT - Media News Wrap-up: There were reporters from northern Utah's three major newspapers in attendance at yesterday's Chris Peterson open house. We've already had some discussion in our herein comments section from gentle readers who sat in on Mr. Peterson's presentation(s). For the convenience of our gentle readers, and to flesh-out the discussion, we are linking here the "takes" from the points of view of the Standard-Examiner, Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune reporters.

Additional comments or comparisons, anyone?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bob G's Question & Answer Session

We received the following email over the weekend, and thought we'd throw it out for discussion. It incorporates a series of questions which were propounded to and answered by Lift Ogden's Bob Geiger, and also includes a retort from WSU professor Bryan Dorsey. We believe it's all very interesting and revealing:

Bob G.'s Question & Answer Session

Before we open the WC forum discussion on this topic though, we can't resist commenting upon a paragraph in Bob G's discussion that we find to be more than slightly unnerving from a taxpayer's point of view:

It is my understanding that the land must be sold for fair market value. The city cannot give it away. Further, from a financial standpoint, we must take into consideration the value of the overall package to the city. Maybe someone out there would be willing to pay more for the land than Chris Peterson and then continue to run it as it is currently being run---$320,000 loss to the new owner rather than the to Ogden, City. However, his one-time purchase will provide Ogden city with a single influx of money. Chris Peterson's plans will generate a significant tax benefit to the city while still offering the city fair market value for the course. The current discounted value of Chris Peterson's future payment streams to the city in the form of taxes, plus the fair market value that he will pay to the city, plus the other economic investments that will come in response to Chris's investment are what we need to consider here. I'd be interested to meet the buyer who will pay the current discounted value of Chris Peterson's perpetual $5,000,000 tax stream to the city, plus the fair market price that he is going to pay for the land, plus a very modest estimate of future investments that would accommodate Chris's investment and then sit on the land as it is currently being used, losing $320,000 per year.
While Bob gets off to a fairly good start by remarking that the 140-acre park property "must be sold for fair market value," he then rambles, spirals and descends into a hopefully fuzzy analysis, disjointedly mixing in concepts of business valuation, tax increment streams and "other economic investments," etc., and does this vaguely enough to entirely negate his encouraging opening sentence and render the rest of his answer useless.

With all due respect to the enthusiastic Mr. Geiger, it seems to Weber County Forum that determining fair market value of the Mt. Ogden parcel "ain't all that complicated." All that's necessary is to find the price per acre for comparable sales of undeveloped east bench property, and apply it to the Mt. Ogden property. That's how realtors do it. That's how real developers do it. That's how the taxpayers should do it, assuming for sake of argument that the property will be sold at all.

The term "fair market value" is a term of art, by the way, susceptible to uncomplicated definition.

In that connection, several readers in an earlier comments thread calculated the value of the assumed 140 acres at $45 million, based on comparable sales prices of Davis County bench property. And a recent Std-Ex reader letter pegged the value at $100 million*, based on the price per acre value of the 20 acre Golf City property, which sold within the last week or so for $6 million. If the Mt. Ogden property is to be sold at all, it seems to us clear that it should be sold only at fair market value, i.e., a price comparable to those of other similar properties in the area. I suspect that price will be far more than Chris Peterson is willing to cough up, and that this is the reason Mr. Geiger waffles on the subject of fair market price.

Professor Dorsey raises some interesting additional questions re the "valuation" of public parklands too. What would be the fair market value of Yellowstone Park, for instance... or Yosemite or Canyonlands? Mt. Ogden is regarded by many as a unique local park treasure, after all. Can it honestly be regarded as just another run-of the-mill Ogden City real estate asset? SO many questions; so few answers.

Other than that, we'll leave the analysis up to our gentle readers. It's YOUR forum after all.

(*We calculate a $42 million value [based on the Golf City sale] -- Perhaps the reader was also taking the 150+ acre WSU property into account in his $100 million calculation)

Update 4/17/8:20 p.m. MT: The gondolists have dragged out their "big gun" lawyer "mouthpiece" to duel with the college perfessors. Somebody musta struck a nerve, I guess. Gawd do We ever love Ogden city politics.

Ramming the gondola project down the citizens' throats is obviously a "mission from God" for the entire Allen family.

This is definitely "getting good."

We will resereve our own comments for later.

What about it gentle readers? What other comments and observations are you willing to "ordain" on this subject?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Another Clumsy Blunder From the Godfey Administration House Media Organ

By Gentle Reader Curmudgeon

The Sub-Standard Examiner Strikes Again!

In this morning's SE edition, at the head of the Top of Utah section there is a story headlined "Developer: Gondola Good for WSU" by a "reporter" [politely so called] named Blair Dee Hodges. Here is the lede:

"OGDEN --- A private developer who offered Ogden $500 million to buy Mount Ogden Golf Course as part of a plan to bring a gondola to the city said unused property at Weber State University is critical to his plan."

Mr. Peterson, of course, has not offered Ogden $500 million to buy Mt. Ogden golf course. Hell, if he did offer the city that much, flat out, for just the course, as the story claims, even I'd say sell it and get him to sign the purchase agreement NOW before he sobers up. The $500 million is the amount Peterson says will be invested in Ogden on the entire project he proposes [construction of the Malan's basin resort, purchase of WSU land, construction of the gondolas, construction of the 400 up-scale private homes in a gated community, etc. etc.]

I have already e-mailed the managing editor of the SE asking that a correction be printed, swiftly. It might we wise for others to email or call Mr. Howell [his email and phone number are printed at the end of his weekly column on paper operations which appears on the same page today as Ms. Hodge's story] to suggest... politely, please --- that a rapid correction of Ms. Hodge's story is necessary.

Editorial Note: We at Weber County Forum differ with gentle reader Curmudgeon's conclusion and assume the oft-mentioned $500 million figure doesn't represent any investment on Mr. Peterson's part at all, but instead represents the calculated final price tag that 400 (count 'em) $1 million dollar+ homes will command, once construction is completed and escrows are closed, plus $100 million, more or less (to "round out" the figure,) which would represent the final value of the gondolas, when constructed. Chris Peterson has never asserted or demonstrated, so far as we know, that he can pull $.5 billion, or even a small fraction of that, out of his own back pocket. Even though Mr. Peterson married the multi-billionaire's daughter, we at Weber County Forum do not believe Chris Peterson has his own "pot to piss in," to invoke a "tried and true" old pejorative "Traditonal Irish" phrase.

Mr. Peterson's whole "plan" depends on leveraging the value of the Mt. Ogden and WSU properties, so far as we can determine; and Ogden citizens need to be craftily persuaded to join in.

Weber County Forum believes that the Standard-Examiner should quickly publish a retraction and/or correction, as gentle reader curmudgeon suggests, and send cub reporter Hodges back to journalism school. After that, Ms. Hodges should enroll in a class in economics or accounting, before she ever starts reporting on complicated business issues again.

Update 4/17/06 9:47 a.m. MT: We are informed that the Std-Ex has made some kind of a correction or retraction somewhere in the backpages of yesterday's edition, for what that's worth.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Willing to Compromise

We received this excellent and articulate article from gentle reader Stuart Carver

It's a lengthy tome, so we are linking it here, in the interest of saving front page bandwidth.

Willing to Compromise

Editor's Note: This "lengthy tome" has been "promoted" to the Front Page from one of our comments threads. Congrats, Stuart. We've been awaiting some non-inflammatory and rational argument in favor of the gondola plan. Bingo, you've accomplished that! You made the front page with your very first post. That's a FIRST @ WCForum, BTW. A hat tip to ya's. Nice article & thanks.

Don't let the cat get your tongues, gentle readers.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Residents Shred Resort Plans? -- Updated

For those gentle readers interested in discussing last night's Smart Growth Ogden-sponsored Mt. Ogden neighborhood planning meeting, which was held at the Wasatch elementary school, we are setting up this thread for that topic. At least one gentle reader has already mentioned this meeting in a previous thread; and we anticipate that other readers may feel compelled to chime in on this topic too. To get the ball rolling, we're linking this morning's Standard-Examiner story here.

For the benefit of those gentle readers who would desire a decidely more detailed and cerebral (and accurate) report than Ace Reporter Schwebke has provided, you can read Part I of Dian Woodhouse's report here. A Part II installment is coming up imminently, Dian informs us, so be sure to stay tuned to this blog. In the meantime, your continuing reader comments are invited.

What, gentle readers, were YOUR impressions of this meeting? Did the citizens in attendance "raucously" "shred" the gondolist resort plan, as the Standard-Examiner headline and Mr. Schwebke suggest? Were all points of view fully and fairly represented? What points caught your particular attention? What were the highlights; and what arguments came off as "duds?"

Comments, anyone?

Update 4/14/06 11:45 a.m. MT: As promised, Dian has produced and submitted her Part II "public comments" write-up, which has been unfortunately languishing in our email inbox since early yesterday morning. We offer our apologies for the delay in posting this final installment. Having arrived by email, the article required manual re-formatting. To our regret, your humble blogmaster didn't have time to do that until just now. Special thanks go out to gentle reader Dian, who does so very much to contribute to the flow of information on this blog and in this community.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Townsfolk Grow Restless

As reported by Kristen Moulton in this morning's Salt Lake Tribune article, Ogden City's bobble-headed but rabidly visionary gondola cult is experiencing some community backlash this week. It seems that several citizen petitions are being circulated around the WSU campus and elsewhere, bearing the message "Chris Peterson Go Home -- and Take Your Sidekick Mayor Matthew -- with you." Well... the message appears to be something like that, anyway.

Petitions oppose east-bench project for Ogden

By Kristen Moulton
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

OGDEN - Two petitions are being circulated to try to thwart a Salt Lake developer's attempt to transform Ogden's east bench with luxury homes, a gondola and a mid-mountain resort.

Weber State University history professor Susan Matt says she and others have gathered close to 300 faculty and staff signatures of those opposing the sale of WSU land for developer Chris Peterson.

And Ogden resident Theresa Holmes said she had gathered close to 200 signatures by last Friday on a separate petition to Ogden City, urging that the Mount Ogden Golf Course also not be sold for private development.

"We want to keep the most beautiful Ogden public park and recreational asset available for future generations," the Holmes petition reads.

Peterson has not made any formal offer to either WSU or to the city, but his vision has ignited a landslide of interest - pro and con. Mayor Matthew Godfrey, who backs the plan, has called it the biggest thing to hit the northern Utah city since the railroad.

The Salt Lake area developer plans to unveil details of his project April 19 at a six-hour WSU open house.

Those who have attended Peterson's meetings with opinion and business leaders say he wants to buy and redesign the city's golf course and build a gated community of luxury homes there and on 160 acres of largely undeveloped hillside.

The gondola, which would begin at the downtown transit center, would turn up the mountain from a base on the WSU land. He plans housing and a ski resort in Malan's Basin, where he owns 1,400 acres, and envisions the gondola extending to Mount Ogden and the top of Snowbasin Ski Resort on the east side of the Wasatch Range.

Matt said there has been "tremendous" support for her petition at WSU, which employs 688 faculty and more than 1,200 staffers.

"It offends a lot of people that it's public land that this developer is trying to get at a bargain-basement price, and then he's going to build the most private of all: a gated community," she said.

Early on in the discussions that began about a year ago, Peterson did not say he wanted land that now belongs to WSU. Recently, that changed, although the number of acres Peterson wants appears to be "evolving," Kowalewski said.

The acreage above the campus is largely undeveloped, although it has two buildings that house facilities management, the mailroom and shipping and campus stores.

A 20-year campus master plan, written five years ago, did not contemplate developing or selling the land, Kowalewski said, adding "This land is in a land bank. No presumed use of the land has been determined by the university."

Open house scheduled

What: Open house on project proposed for Ogden's east bench.

Who: Developer Chris Peterson presents plan.

Where: Weber State University's Shepherd Union Building, Ballroom C.

When: April 19 from noon to 6 p.m., with Peterson making presentations at 1 p.m.,
3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Notwithstanding a year's worth of The Cult's stealth marketing, monthly revival meetings, rah-rah word of mouth promotion, foamy-mouthed letters to the editor (here's a classic,) promotional CD's (and other local-floor-covering-retailer-produced audio-visual aids,) Chris Peterson and his slavish and frenzied gondola cultists remain faced with sizable pockets of Ogden citizen-resistance which still haven't been convinced that Chris Peterson's "plan" is the best thing since the coming of Jesus Christ the railroad. Some folks stubbornly cling to the suspicion that Mr. Peterson is not a benevolent benefactor sent by God to "save" Ogden, but rather just another devious and opportunistic charlatan developer, craftily maneuvering to get his hooks into 300 or so acres of the most valuable undeveloped property in Ogden city, at a "blue light special" price. Go figure. Perhaps these folks haven't been drinking enough of the delicious and free Kool-Aide the gracious cultists have so generously provided over the last year. Perhaps, though, the street-smart townsfolk are finally growing weary of the incessant gondolist shuck and jive.

And what say our gentle readers? Have the townsfolk finally grown restless enough to start riding a few of these perceived greed-head Ogden carpetbaggers outta town on a rail?

Let us hear the wisdom of our gentle readers forthwith.

Monday, April 10, 2006

It's Not About Oil, and It's Not About the Gondola

By Dian Woodhouse
Standard-Examiner Guest Commentary
Originally published "web only" Saturday, April 8, 2006

Every once in awhile, both in the lives of individuals and in the lives of the social structures we as individuals have created, it is necessary to take a step back and look at the basic premises under which we are operating. This is part of the process we call maturity.

We in America have been called a "young country," but youth, as we all know, does not last forever, and we are currently facing quite a few things that should be examined, and probably revised.

We hear from many people both in government and in the private sector, for instance, that it is vital that we as a nation "protect our interests overseas." This point of view, widely held though it may be, is a flawed one if protecting our interests means waging war against another nation solely because certain American corporate interests there are being threatened, or because, as many have insinuated about our current war, of the price of oil.

It is flawed because the United States government was not created to enrich either itself or certain favored corporate entities. The government was created to govern. And the concept of government does not include taking part in business, or, worse yet, becoming a business.

Yet we hear that, too. That government nowadays must be run like a business, because it has its hand in so many projects partially backed by private enterprise. Government involvement in private projects is certainly evident in America today, but is this involvement right, or ethical, or the correct role of American government? I would say no.

Here in Ogden, for instance, we have been for the past few years reading articles in the local media and seeing TV news stories about how Ogden is going ahead full bore to become a ski town. The relocation of ski companies to the area has been widely publicized, and the plans for a resort in Malan's Basin and an accompanying gondola have been reported upon and publicly endorsed by the mayor. This publicity campaign is exactly what a private entrepreneur who owned an entire town and wished to change the face of it would do -- use the media to generate interest and enthusiasm for the new image being created.

It is a well-proven path to success in business. But it is not the proper role and procedure of our government.

Especially since, in Ogden's case, the legislative arm of the local government, the Ogden City Council, has yet to see any plans for either the resort or the gondola, and has therefore obviously not voted to approve them. Despite this, not only is the city as a whole portrayed as being in favor of these two things, but public relations firms are hired to portray it as being so by the administrative arm of the local government, even to the point of the inclusion of the mayor in a promotional DVD that was handed out at a ski trade show.

When discussions about this type of governmental activity reach this point, usually the discussion will be diverted. This in itself is an interesting phenomenon. Those who begin asking that if, for instance, it should ever be found that the war in Iraq was indeed motivated mainly by oil prices, was it proper for our government to intervene in that country, will end by perhaps having to defend themselves against accusations of being pro-torture.

Here locally, those who ask if it is proper for the administrative arm of government to be advocating projects that have not even been approved by the legislative arm will find themselves being questioned as to whether they are for or against the gondola. Or the resort. Or ski companies.

That is really not the issue at all. It's not all about oil, and it's not all about the gondola. What this is all about it taking a critical look at the way government, both national and local, has redefined itself. It is, in some cases, running itself like a business. In other cases, it is funding and "protecting" certain businesses. And I don't know if we, as American citizens, really want our government to be doing that.

We are a nation that runs on a capitalistic economy, and we all know that the state of the economy is a factor in our national well-being. When our government begins to be involved in capitalistic enterprises, our allowance of this practice is actually harming our entire system.

Here's why: In order for a capitalistic enterprise to be successful, certain factors have to be in place. For instance, any business whose cash expenditures exceed its cash inflows simply will not be around for long. Government, however, does not have to deal with that particular factor. Government, as opposed to business, is always guaranteed a cash inflow through tax dollars. Business is not. Right there is created a fundamental inequality as regards competitionwhat business owner would be able to compete with a rival who had unlimited funds and also did not even have to take into account the factors of inflow and outflow, or supply and demand? And in addition, what business owner would wish to contribute to the unlimited funds of such a rival? Yet, this is exactly the situation we have when we as citizens endorse government running itself like a business.

So it's not about oil, and it's not about the gondola. It's about a fundamental change in the role of American government at all levels that does not bode well for the survival of the American capitalistic economy. And even though we may be a "young country," we're old enough now to have learned a few things. Obviously, since we have evidently forgotten a few things, one being the way we were set up in the first place. Old enough for a refresher course, perhaps, on who we are, what we stand for, and what we require from our various local and national governments in order not only to continue, but to prosper.

Woodhouse lives in Ogden, and contributes to the Standard-Examiner and Weber County Forum from time to time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Peterson Will Benefit From the Deal With Godfrey

Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey and Chris Peterson have fostered a mutually beneficial relationship. Peterson's business could profit from the mayor's decisions, and Godfrey could profit from an association with Peterson and his wealthy family.

Despite being locked out of this relationship, the rest of us should realize it for what it is. Peterson wants to open a resort at Malan's Basin, and a smart businessman should try to get as many people to his resort as possible, while also avoiding any possible expense.

Peterson's answer: Build a relationship with the mayor. Talk him into building a gondola all the way from the Intermodal Transportation Hub right up to the resort.

Then, sell this corrupt idea as Ogden's transportation solution. Make it sound even better by saying the city will save its share of the expense by selling a golf course to a developer (that is, Chris Peterson).

Peterson eventually gets free transportation from all over northern Utah to his resort, and prime real estate to develop an upscale community. We can only speculate as to what Godfrey gets out of the deal. However, he will not get mass -- much less rapid -- transit in Ogden.

Just imagine yourself as a Weber State student with an early-morning class. You've got a limited amount of time to get there, but you're stuck with a gondola that moves slowly as it hovers above Harrison Boulevard. Now imagine driving yourself to school because Godfrey and Peterson were slick enough to sell this very bad idea.

Scott Kolts
Franklin, Tenn.

Editor's Note: This piece is from the April 4, 2006 Std-Ex letters to editor section.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Three Disparate Points

Today, we'll hit on three disparate points:

1) Our steadfast local paper (the Sanduskey-Examiner) stumbled upon a slight obstacle today, the only thing that stands in the path of The Boy Who Would be King, mayor Matt Godfrey of Ogden, who wishes to shove another grand scheme down the taxpayers' throats before he's unceremoniously ushered out of office in 2008. It seems that our beloved mayor will be unable to sell the 140 acre Mt. Ogden golf course to his European traveling mate, Chris Peterson, without City Council approval. It seems there's a zoning problem.

"The council would be required to hold public hearings and would have to amend the general plan to allow the sale of the golf course to developer Chris Peterson. This is because the property is considered a park and the plan has open-space goals," Ogden Chief Deputy Attorney Andrea Lockwood said.

Godfrey wants to re-zone our legacy park to residential. This would be funny if it weren't the town in which many of us live.

"[Greg] Montgomery said he is unaware of any legal restrictions that would prohibit the golf course property from being used for a housing development."

Mr. Montgomery apparently springs from that botched generation of Americans who are also "unaware" of moral and ethical values. As our gentle readers will recall, the Mt. Ogden Park property was generously donated to Ogden city fifty or so years ago, to be used only as a public park. If the actor won't get indicted; it's OK, suggests Mr. Montgomery, I suppose. His statement unfortunately reflects the base morals and ethics of the current inhabitants of City Hall. Oh, for the halcyon days in Ogden, when handshake deals were sufficient, and promises were unfailingly and dutifully honored.

2) On another point, Descente North America's Bob Geiger, the unofficial official of the Ogden City government yesterday sent out this spam email to his selected Gondola Cult list. It seems he's unhappy with the dialogue here. In his never ending quest to paint himself as a "kook," he's been driving new readers to Weber County Forum in unprecedented numbers.

3) Finally, we also received this email from several of our attentive readers. It's a "heads-up" on another "secret meeting." It's probably just another "information gathering session though," we suppose. Gondolists never lie; and they're ALWAYS right.

We're developing a few "trust issues" here at Weber County Forum with this Chris Peterson guy. He'd never lie to the townsfolk, right?

Howbout our gentle readers?

What say YOU about all this?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Nothing Like This Has Come Down the Pike

The gondolist stealth juggernaut grinds on. As can be no doubt inferred from the headline story in the Standard-Examiner Sunday edition, the Utah Board of Regents will likely be the latest group to be be targeted for the scheduling of secret sales meetings with "developer" Chris Peterson, and his lovable but manic sidekick, the globe-trotting Matthew Godfrey.

"While the university would have an opportunity to review the plan, a final decision on whether to sell property to Peterson would rest with the Utah Board of Regents," ace reporter Scott Schwebke dutifully reports.

Yeah, that's the ticket. President Ann Milner and the local crew don't ultimately call the shots at WSU anyway, right?

And comments from local citizens are already beginning to trickle into the Std-Ex letters section, in the wake of reporter Schwebke's March 30 story.

One correspondent complains about government secrecy. This letter mirrors what we've been saying about government secrecy for months on Weber County Forum.

And another Std-Ex editorial section letter deftly examines the true definition of "progress," and succinctly makes a point or two about public interests that need to be considered by the Ogden townsfolk and their public decision-makers in the weeks and months to come.

Our community needs to discuss Mr. Peterson's proposal out in the open, we think, before the public decision-makers even begin their deliberations. Perhaps the discussion process is beginning now. Hopefully the key public decision-makers other than Mayor Godfrey will not already have made their minds up, one way or the other, by the time the public is finally invited to contribute to the debate.

Weber County Forum suggests the scheduling of a series of public hearings or town hall meetings on this subject at the earliest juncture. Architectural renderings, overview maps and supporting documents and memoranda should be lodged for public inspection at City Hall immediately.

"I've never seen anything like this come down the pike," said Norm Tarbox, Weber State University vice president of administrative services. "It's a significant proposal."

Mr. Tarbox certainly got that one right.

Comments, gentle readers?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

More Fuel to the Fire?

It's obvious from our reader emails that at least a few of our gentle readers are still suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the March 11, 2006 Shupe-Williams fire. In that connection, we're posting the text of an email which we received from one of our gentle readers. You can bookmark this one under the category "Intriguing Background Information," we think. Is there an insurance adjuster or underwriter professional in the house who can explain to our our gentle readers how all this works?

To those of you interested in the ongoing mystery as to the circumstances of the Shupe Williams Building fire:

Click on the attached link to the Minutes of the Board of Commissioners of Weber County dated August 2, 2005 page 2 - ACTION ITEM F.

You will read that Ogden City Attorney Norm Ashton requested that the County waive the 2001 property taxes of $4,096.47 plus penalties of $81.93 and interest in the amount of $1,081.59 on the Shupe Williams Building because the city came into possession of the property on October 2, 2005 in lieu of foreclosure from Marina Capital.

Norm Ashton of Ogden City stated his agreement with Mr. Bond's presentation and gave some history of this case. He stated that the city had entered into this agreement with the developer, deeding the property with certain stipulations. The city extended the deadlines for them several times to obtain financing, but Marina Capital was unable to obtain it. The city took the building in lieu of foreclosure. He asked the Commission to consider adjusting the tax obligation by waiving 50% of it. He noted the significant expense for demolition of this building which is now beyond economic rehabilitation.
Records show that on July 1, 2005 Ogden City took out a Chubb Insurance Co. policy #35833430 through agent, Fred A. Moreton & Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, in the amount of $2.5 million dollars even though Mr. Ashton in his request for 50% abatement of property taxes is quoted as stating that "this building is now beyond economic rehabilitation".

And this request for abatement was done in a meeting on August 2, 2005 while the property was under the private ownership of Marina Capital until October 2, 2005.

How can Ogden City legally take out a $2.5 million dollar policy on a building which Ogden City Attorney stated is now "beyond economic rehabilitation?"

-Dorothy Littrell

Please help us out on this, gentle readers. Many of our readers lack expertise in the area of insurance claims.

Comments, anyone?

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