By Linda Johnson
As a member of Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon's commission to reconsider the Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone, I attended our recent open house at Mill Creek Community Center. The faintly antagonistic tone of the questions surprised me, because the "representative-of-all-interests" meetings have been mostly agreeable. Clearly, people want to protect the overlay zone, and don't understand what we're up to.
I've been a planning commissioner, town board member, and mayor (in another state). I'm not a hiker or biker or environmentalist or developer. I was probably appointed because of my experience in being evenhanded, and representing ordinary people.
I believe that the process in the FCOZ is so convoluted, expensive, and time-wasting that it needs to be tidied up. This is not to say loosened. It hasn't been my impression that any commission member is agreeable to massive development in any area we are covering.
For an unpleasant example, consider this, pointed out on one of our canyon tours: Some people still use outhouses, in places where we work hard to keep the water pure and clean, where you need special dispensation to have a pet dog. Sewer lines are going in. Some outhouse users now could have indoor plumbing, but they don't have "legal" setbacks from streams or property lines because their houses were built before FCOZ rules were made.
It's an issue of public health. Even if the lavatory has to be cantilevered over the creek, if flush toilets connected to a sanitary sewer can physically be put in, they should be. Unpolluted water and public health come first. FCOZ doesn't stretch to allow the property line option. Should it? The mayor's commission is to consider that and similar problems.
To get an overlay zone permit to do anything, one must consult the health, fire, engineering, planning (code), and water departments. It takes forever. Each department either OKs or denies, for assorted, different reasons, often asking for conflicting plan changes and return visits.
I hope the commission will clarify and simplify the path to yes or no, saving aggravation and expense. That doesn't mean weakened rules. Simplicity is good for homeowners and staff. Yes and no could become predictable, and getting there wouldn't take years. The rules wouldn't change; just the path.
I think regulations should be written to apply to the very different conditions and uses in various canyons. West-side FCOZ (near Herriman) probably shouldn't be the same as for east-side recreational canyons or residential canyons, and ski areas need "village" rules. It seems to me that with separation and clarity, special, non-conforming use permits can be nearly eliminated, and with them staff, homeowner, and business time and expense.
I may be wrong. After more study, time, and information, I may change my mind. Other commission members have other fields of knowledge and will tell me things I don't know. That's why this is a group effort. No matter what, when we've studied enough to make recommendations, we all will continue to agree that basic preservation of the forest, its clean water, its beauty, and its peaceful recreation opportunities is what FCOZ is for. Have no fear that we're going to say, "What a beautiful place, let's develop it." That's not going to happen.
Come to the commission meetings with a good heart, and make constructive comments. Tell us what needs fixing, what doesn't work well and why. We aren't out to wreck FCOZ or the forests; we're out to make things work more simply and smoothly.
Linda Johnson is a member of Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon's commission to reconsider the Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone. She lives in Salt Lake City.