Monday, May 24, 2010

Powder Mountain Update: The Standard Examiner Sez "Compromise Appears Close"

A cursory examination of the three chief provisions of the preliminary "MOU compromise agreement," with a few offhand editorial observations of our own

We'll direct our readers' attention this morning to an informative Di Lewis writeup in this morning's Standard-Examiner, which delves into the intricacies of the Powder Mountain Memorandum of Understanding which is set for public discussion before the Weber County Commission on June 1. (We do hope you've all marked your calenders, folks.)

Ms. Lewis identifies what we consider to be the three chief provisions of this preliminary "compromise agreement," which we'll examine one by one, while spicing it up with a few offhand editorial observations of our own:

1) "The memorandum allows for 2,800 dwelling units, 1,600 more than the planning commission recommended."

According to Commissioner Dearden, the number "is down significantly from what developers wanted two years ago." Unfortunately we can't confirm the accuracy of Commissioner Dearden's statement. Our own examination of the December 10, 2007 Planning Staff Report reveals that the Powder Mountain developer (Western America Holding, LLC [WAH]) proposal initially called for the approval of "2405 dwelling units, plus 385 hotel sleeping rooms, plus 60 rooms located within 5 corporate retreats/community clubs." Whether the developer kicked up its demands during the litigation phase of negotiations we don't know; but based on the original proposed numbers, it would appear to us that the only compromising that's occurring with respect to the original "density" proposal would be on the Weber County Commission's part.

2) "To develop to full build-out, the owners would have to donate $1.35 million to the county for open land preservation."

This provision is pretty straightforward, we believe. Under terms of the Memo of Understanding (MOU), this $1.35 million "donation" would be accomplished in three phases:
I) upon completion of the 1st unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $100,000; ii) completion of the 1000th unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $250,000; ii) upon completion of the 2000th unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $500,000; and iii) upon completion of the 2800th unit, WAH or its nominee shall donate $500,000.
What's obvious here is that this provision is intended as a "compromise" on the developer's part to mitigate the increased resort density, beyond the 1218 Planning Commission dwelling unit recommendation set forth in item #1 above. In a nutshell, WAH wants to do a little "horse-trading," and proposes to swap high density up-mountain for open space in the down-mountain Ogden Valley. Whether $1.35 million in compensation will be sufficient for this, we don't know. But inasmuch as the Commission is reportedly vowing to keep their ears open to lumpencitizen concerns, we're pretty sure we'll find out, on or about June 1.

3) A 1.5 percent real estate transfer fee, to be applied toward open land purchase and road improvements

As to this provision, which would impose a 1.5% fee on all real estate and condo transfers into perpetuity, and plow these funds back into roadway improvements and open space purchases, the negotiators have already run into a probable legal log-jam, as Ms. Lewis duly notes. Last legislative session the legislature passed SB 161, which for the most part banned real estate transfer fees, except in instances where the proceeds from such fees would flow directly back into the projects from which they originated.

Concerning this issue, we'll agree with Deputy County Attorney Dave Wilson: The argument that the MOU transfer fee provision falls within the permissive provisions of the new statute is pretty thin. Accordingly we have to wonder whether the legislature, which over the course of the past four years has wilfully failed to lift a finger to resolve the Powder Mountain Mess (a mess of the legislature's own creation), would deign to enact the necessary amendments to solve the problem once and for all. And failing that, would the legal impossibility of enforcing this provision be a deal breaker all its own? Keep in mind, gentle readers, that the "transfer tax provision" should be regarded as another negotiated "compromise" from WAH's point of view, inasmuch as the existence of this provision reduces the marketability of the properties within the developer's proposed project.

That's it for now gentle readers. And yes, we understand there remains a plethora of other issues, other than the three we've singled out above.

Have at it, gentle ones. Let's use Ms. Lewis's morning article to launch a further reader discussion of these issues.

Please don't forget the public hearing on June 1; and remember what Commissioner Zogmaister says:
Although Weber commissioners are hopeful a compromise can be reached between county and developers, they say public input will weigh heavily on their decision."I really am at a wait-and-see point," said Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister."I've watched the whole thing progress for a couple years, so I am willing to hear it, but I also really would like to hear the input from the citizens who will be directly affected by this. ... The whole thing has been to represent the citizens in this agreement."
That's "code" folks, which means the Commission is challenging the lumpencitizens to pack the house.

Snoozers will be losers.

See's ya all in the Commission Chambers on the 1st of June. If you can't be there, please bring along an excuse here on Weber County Forum from either from your Doctor, Your Mom or Your Mortician.


don't quit while you're ahead said...

The citizens and the Commission should hold fast, and await the upcoming Utah Supreme Court decision.

The Viking said...

What seems to be lost in all of this is, if the Weber County Commission gives in on this MOU, they will allow the Powder Mountain developers to ignore the 3 acre minimum requirement for development in Ogden Valley that has been in force since1998. Many landowners have had to adhere to that policy and did so to maintain the ambiance and open spaces of as laid out in the General Plan for Ogden Valley..

Do you think it is fair for the Commissioners to make an exception for Powder Mountain when Wolf Creek, Snow Basin, and other developers had to follow three acre minimum for the last 12 years?

We can see many lawsuits from both current landowners and future developers to challenge this double standard.

All Weber County residents

Monotreme said...

The MOU still doesn't change the fact that you've gotta get fire trucks up (and down) a 14% grade to protect the homes being built up there.

I don't think a 1.5% fee is enough to make up for what a road that could accommodate fire trucks would cost.

14% grade! said...

Let's see. Earl Holding promised to build the 15 million dollar road to his Snow Basin Resort.

Then we taxpapers ended up paying for it and continue to pay for its maintenance and snow removal.

Anyone see any similarities to the Powderville road issue? Anyone willing to trust the County or the Developer?

I don't think so!

They Lie said...

How about this...

Build the freak'in road FIRST! Then discuss other infrastructure necessary to support housing density.

Put the horse in front of the cart for a change.

And whatever is decided, do not trust anything to developers or politicians. They all lie!!

Valley Driver said...

Remember good people, Zogmaister says "she wants to hear from the people directly affected by this."

That means to her the hostage/homowners. Of course they want a settlement to get out from under the incorporation!!!!!

I have news for Jan Zogmaister, the whole of Ogden Valley will be affected by this decision, not just the homeowners. If the Weber County Commissioners throw the rest of the Valley under the bus just to rectify something that should not have happened in the first place, you can draw your own conclusions about their "real" concerns for the other 4,000 plus that live in Ogden Valley.

Curmudgeon said...


If the residents of Ogden Valley wanted to protect the development limits they'd put in place some years ago, they should have bought and paid for enough legislators and perhaps a governor to make sure what they wanted was written into law, just like real estate developers do.

the system is all F'd up said...

Good point Curmudgeon. Instead of electing public servants in Utah, we should skip voting entirely, and instead pour our money into Utah Lobbyists.

I'm not sure that Jefferson, Madison and some of the other "founders" would advocate hiring lobbyists as a substitute for hiring pristine elected public officials...

But that's the modern reality, isn't it?


Why in the world is everyone (the legislature, the Weber County Commission, etc.) rushing to the aid of a bunch of land speculators who were either too stupid or too careless (listening, Mark Arnold?) to have checked the zoning and the allowable density BEFORE buying the property? These morons have zero equity on their side; they should be shown the door, now.

Vote Democrat said...

Don't kid yourselves, People. Zogmaister and the rest of the all-GOP Commission would like to bail out from this dilemma at the first opportunuty, and Give the Powder Mountian developer whatever they want. The entire County Commnission craves the tax base that would be created by a Mega-Powder Mountain resort.

People like Zogmaister (and that nitwit realtor-owned Commission candidate Kerry Gibson) are just playing you all until after the November election.

Don't be schmucks if you love Ogden Valley.

Vote Democrat in the 2010 election.

Vote Democrat if you care about Ogden Valley

Vote Republican said...

Noooo! Vote Republican! After Zogmaister, Dearden and Gibson get done with you, nobody in Ogden Valley will have to pay taxes ever again. It'll be just like Palin's Alaska, I swear, with Ogden Valley residents getting a giant paycheck from the State every year!

WAIT AND SEE? said...

"I really am at a wait-and-see point," said Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister.

What has she been doing for the past two years????????????????

Time for a change.


"I really am at a wait-and-see point," said Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister. "I've watched the whole thing progress for a couple years, so I am willing to hear it, but I also really would like to hear the input from the citizens who will be directly affected by this. ..."

Shouldn't she have been listening to the citizens for the past two years?

Time for a change.


Powder Mtn. and the current commissioners want a compromise before they get booted out in November, when the new commissioners will come in and start listening to the people that actually cast votes.

Grizelda said...

Crum, where do I send my check?

Kick the bums out. This fall, vote for Drew Johnson and Amy Wicks. Get the old guard out.

Remember, Zogmaister along with the others was responsible for appointing the poster child for conflict of interest to the OV planning commission.

time to pay her back in November.

Skip The Dog said...


I am sick and tired of our County Government pandering to the interests of Powder Mountain over the citizens that live in Weber County. Powder Mountain has tried every chickensh!t maneuver, even to go as far as to spike the State Senate, to gain the unsustainable density for a resort that they want to flip. Weber County and Ogden Valley developed community standards over 10 years ago; other developers have since had to adhere to these standards. Our County Government has wasted a lot of time and taxpayer money on these @ssholes, I think it is time to go to court and not the time for compromise.


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