Snowbird coaster is coming as county tweaks rules
Snowbird is poised to get the mountain coaster it wants to bolster summer business.
The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort will be able to restart the process of seeking a permit for a coaster planned now for private land next to the Peruvian Express chairlift rather than the lower face of Mount Superior with the Salt Lake County Council's 5-2 approval Tuesday of changes to its ordinance governing uses of the canyons and foothills.
But by the time the ordinance was revised with much teeth-gnashing the coaster itself was a background issue. Conservationists were more concerned that revisions, particularly one permitting the county to grant waivers for construction on slopes exceeding 50 percent, could give resorts an opening to pursue other development projects.
Those projects could include SkiLink, a proposal to build a gondola tying Solitude Mountain Resort with Canyons Resort, or features that would advance the concept of interconnecting all seven ski resorts in Salt Lake and Summit counties.
"This is a major policy change with huge implications for development in the canyons," said Allen Sanderson, a canyon advocate from Salt Lake City, contending the changes showed "a severe lack of critical thinking."
He was not alone in voicing displeasure.
County Councilman Michael Jensen, a Republican who testified before Congress on behalf of a bill that promotes SkiLink, was visibly perturbed that Democrats Arlyn Bradshaw and Jim Bradley voted against the Foothills, Canyons and Overlay Zone revisions which he considered a compromise they had all worked out.
Jensen said he would not have supported Bradshaw's addition of language that suggested the revisions were intended to solve an immediate problem involving the county's handling of summer activities at the resorts.
Bradley was disappointed, too. His efforts to attach another provision giving the council final approval of all waiver requests while the in-depth ordinance review is conducted failed 4-3 on a party-line vote. Without that provision in place, he and Bradshaw refused to approve the revisions.
The ordinance approved Tuesday did not concern Laura Briefer, special projects manager for Salt Lake City's Department of Public Utilities, as much as the initial Foothills, Canyons and Overlay Zone proposal, which she said "scared" city officials overseeing watershed protection. Still, she would have liked to have seen Bradley's amendment included as extra protection while the process continues.
To Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, the demise of Bradley's provision and the allowance for construction waivers on 50 percent slopes meant "nothing we wanted made it into this 'compromise' ordinance. Compromise to the County Council means getting all it wants."
About the only one who left the room somewhat pleased was Snowbird General Manager Bob Bonar, who can go ahead with permit applications for a less visible coaster.
"We must be doing something right because not everybody is happy," he said. "The ski resorts aren't happy either. We're not getting everything we want. But this is a good compromise. This is something we worked hard to do."
The Foothills, Canyons and Overlay Zone review process will be launched at the Wasatch Canyons Today Symposium on March 26 and is expected to take about nine months to complete.
Lone councilwoman not running again
First-term Salt Lake County Councilman Jani Iwamoto will not seek re-election this fall.
Iwamoto, who has represented east-side District 4 for four years, said Tuesday that personal obligations will preclude her from running again.
"I have some immediate priorities that need to be addressed," she said. "Although I have had much support, I do not feel I can give the effort necessary to run a campaign and to attend to my present duties on the council."
One of four Democrats and the lone woman on the nine-member council, Iwamoto defeated incumbent Mark Crockett in 2008. He is now a GOP candidate for county mayor.