The Emigration Metro Planning Township Commission has denied an application for a controversial development that envisioned a wedding venue, two-lane shooting range, a zip line and a sledding hill on some 12 acres of the 58-acre property of John Walsh in the canyon community.
Residents burst into applause after the unanimous vote on Thursday, mostly because of their opposition based on concerns of noise, traffic, fire hazard and access problems for emergency vehicles. Some have expressed fear that the project would bloom into a full-blown resort, although Walsh has described it as intended mainly for use by family and friends, with occasional use by small outside groups.
Walsh left the Salt Lake County Government Center soon after the vote and did not respond to a later request for comment from The Salt Lake Tribune.
Remarks during Thursday’s meeting reflected a history of contentious relationships between Walsh, an attorney based in Salt Lake City, and some of the other residents.
“This is not a personal issue at all. It is not the neighborhood against Mr. Walsh,” said Cynthia Furse. She said the fight has “nothing to do with the people involved,” but that the development is simply the wrong proposal for a residential canyon.
Mike Bogart, who says he has been a resident and member of the community for 34 years, alluded to past water-rights litigation involving a pipeline that ran through Walsh’s property.
In denying Walsh’s application for the new development at the top of narrow Pinecrest Canyon Road, the planning commission stated that he had failed to provide sufficient evidence that he could mitigate the concerns expressed by canyon residents.
The planning commission had intended to hold its December meeting touring the proposed development site in preparation for this week’s vote, but the plan fell through.
A report from the Unified Fire Authority did not come through in time for Thursday’s meeting; however, Walsh claimed he had personally spoken with the fire marshal and been assured that the road was adequate for emergency vehicles needing to access the property. Walsh showed the panel drone footage of the road and his property, pointing out areas where he said vehicles could pull off the road to let an emergency vehicle past.
In response to concerns surrounding increased fire danger from the proposed gun range, Walsh claimed that the system he devised to capture discharged bullets would avoid fire dangers and also protect the environment. He asserted that the safety of his planned range was compatible with existing laws that currently allow for firearm discharge in the canyon.
"Today I can discharge a firearm on my property with no conditions, no approval by the fire department, nobody overseeing what I am doing,” said Walsh. He urged the commission to issue a conditional approval for the project and allow “the fire and health departments to set their own conditions.”
Walsh has 10 days to appeal the denial of his application.
Correction: The planning commission did not spend its December meeting touring the proposed development site as it had planned. The original version of the story indicated otherwise.