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Weber County hires consultant to explore tax funding for Powder Mountain development

Published May 10, 2013 9:44 pm

Summit Series • Powder Mountain purchase a done deal at a $40 million price tag.
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Ogden •The Weber County Commission approved a consulting contract Tuesday with Bonneville Research to develop a project area plan and budget that could allow future tax revenues to flow back into the Summit Mountain Holding Group's Powder Mountain development.

The unanimous vote of the three-member commission for the $12,800 contract allows the Salt Lake City-based firm to conduct a financial analysis of the ambitious project that could infuse new life, cash and change into the rural Ogden Valley communities of Eden, Liberty and Huntsville.

According to Douglas Larsen, executive director of Weber Economic Development Partnership, Bonneville Research will help determine the most appropriate use of tax increment, a term referring to the increase in property tax revenue that flows from an area as a result of new development.

Once established as a Community Development Area or CDA, part or all of that tax increment could flow back into the project for a yet-to-be determined period of up to 25 years, contingent on approval from taxing entities such as the county and school district that would agree to forego their share of that increase for the designated time.

Larsen said that Bonneville Research's work should conclude by July and public meetings will then be held to allow discussion of the proposed CDA.

"We look at the Summit project as the right development at the right time," Larsen said Tuesday, applauding the group's fresh vision as "environmentally intelligent."

Summit's plans include up to 500 single-family homes and a village of similar scale on the 7,000-acre mountain — far less than previous developers have envisioned for the area, but more in line with what the Ogden Valley might be able to handle in terms of its natural resources and paved roadways.

In late March, the County approved a $22.5 million special assessment bond to fund public roads, water and sewer for the project's initial phase of 154 homes. Debt service for that 20-year bond is to be paid from homeowners within the development.

Tax increment from the CDA can provide an additional layer of security for bond debt service should the need arise, Larsen said, while funding gas and electrical lines and fiber optic cables for future phases, which may include a mountaintop event center and boutique hotels. As well, a small percentage of the tax increment revenues could be directed to assets that would help further sustain the development, Larsen added.

The Summit Series team announced Tuesday that it had finalized its $40 million purchase of Powder Mountain.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Summit Partner Thayer Walker said that the 40-plus investors behind the purchase were founding members of the company who would one day own homes on the mountain. That well-heeled group includes PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Tim Ferriss — author of The 4-Hour Work Week , and Elle Magazine founder Sunny Bates.

The ski resort's heritage and feel will remain intact, Walker said, with development occurring mostly on the mountain's south side. While a mountaintop conference center is part of Summit's future plans, Walker said its tone and scale will be "more like retreat space than Salt Palace."

cmckitrick@sltrib.com

Twitter: @catmck