Peter Corroon: Seek middle ground
If you've lived in Salt Lake very long you probably have noticed the creep of development up the foothills, particularly on the east side. Our changing landscape, along with the need to accommodate a growing population, led the Salt Lake County Commission to adopt the landmark Foothill-Canyons Overlay Zone in the mid-1990s.
FCOZ has always been controversial, both for those who want development in the canyons and for those who want to preserve our canyons. Our role in county government is to hear the different perspectives and try to find a place for them within rules and regulations.
One technical issue that applies to the overlay zone and needed to be fixed prior to the broader discussion is the clarification for current summer uses in the canyons. Last summer Snowbird applied for permission to build a mountain coaster. That proposal was approved by the Salt Lake County Planning Commission and later was overturned by the county's Board of Adjustment.
The board's decision was based on an interpretation of the existing FCOZ ordinance specifically the definition of a ski resort that says all activities within a ski resort are permitted solely for snow-related activities.
The Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment are both intelligent advisory bodies. I fully support their judgments and opinions. Problems arise when two well-educated bodies arrive at completely different interpretations of the same land-use law.
If our canyon resorts, which all function with ski resort permits, are limited only to "snow related activities," what of the Tour of Utah, Oktoberfest and the zip-line that currently operate in Little Cottonwood Canyon?
The Board of Adjustment's decision to oppose the mountain coaster, after the Planning Commission approved it, raised significant questions about the clarity of our ordinances. This summer-use revision does not necessarily mean Snowbird will be allowed to build its mountain coaster.
Canyon resorts have a place at the table, just like environmental groups like Save Our Canyons do. It's important to do our best to create balance in county government. It's important for Salt Lake County government to be a reflection of the diverse community it represents.
FCOZ applies to all Salt Lake County canyons, including Parley's, Emigration, Millcreek, Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood, Rose and Butterfield. Each of these canyons has unique attributes and pristine natural environments. It's important to balance their specific characteristics with the varying needs of the community.
Ultimately, we want to take the mystery out of FCOZ. We want people to be able to see clearly what is permissible or not permissible within our canyons. We want to bring together all stakeholders for useful dialogue to help guide our modern FCOZ ordinance.
That is why in the coming months, Salt Lake County will host an FCOZ symposium that will bring together a variety of people with varying interests in each Salt Lake County canyon. My goal for the symposium is to use the document, Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow, as a guiding force that we use to set up policies and ordinances for how we treat our canyons today.
I believe in open, honest, effective and accessible government. I have heard, and continue to listen to, a range of needs and desires. Now I want to find that middle ground.
Peter Corroon is mayor of Salt Lake County.
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