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Summit County Council Chair Weighs In On Gillmor Property Acquisition

Summit County

Summit County Council member Roger Armstrong says that when they make a deal for Open Space, they’re trying to pursue several of the county’s strategic objectives at the same time.

That’s why, he said, it was a major accomplishment this week for them to okay a series of agreements and approvals to acquire the Florence Gillmor

Armstrong said they checked off several boxes, concerning the 461-acre Gillmor property, east of the Highway 40 frontage road. They approved an Administrative Order of Consent, or AOC, sanctioned by the EPA, to deal with the impacts of the Silver Creek watershed historic mine tailings.

He said the acquisition creates a significant recreation corridor.

“From a recreational standpoint it connects Round Valley to the Rail Trail to Silver Creek Village. Silver Creek Village will have 3,500/4,000 residents when it's completely built out. There's an 80-acre park there. There are ballfields there, there are a number of recreation facilities that Basin Rec is building there. To create that connection from one end to the other is terrific.  The Gillmor purchase plus adding the Triangle parcel as recreational open space now dedicated, you come up with almost 450 acres of new recreation area.”

He said the recreation opportunity is different from anything else they have in the Basin.

“Varied terrain out there. Great for Nordic skiing, cross country skiing, trails ,bicycles, we have a variety of uses that are specifically permitted by the AOC out there. They range from bikes, to hiking, to fishing. The reason that's interesting is at the end of the day once they clean that up the federal resource trustees come in and they rehabilitate the area. They restore the stream that's in that area to a healthy stream.”

For wildlife, Armstrong said it can be a good feeding area for elk, and the nearby Highway 40 tunnel connects to Round Valley.

The deal will also help control growth along the 40-frontage-road corridor.

“There's a developer that's proposing a development near the Justice Center. Silver Creek Village on that end you've got Home Depot, Burt Brothers, that commercial area. You've got the business park that's blown up in the last four years it's expanded substantially. So, you've got pressure from both directions North and South on that 40 corridor. I think that's only going to continue to grow it’s got certain density associated with it today, but nothing stops somebody from coming in and seeking a re-zone in the area. To the extent that it starts to look more commercial is probably harder to deny that to somebody. We've put a full block in there to make sure that a significant portion of that 40 reach stays open.”

The deal has also created a good alternative for the EPA to clean up part of the Silver Creek corridor, designated as a Superfund area.

“Right now, they’re struggling to squeeze money out of the responsible party to clean that up this could reduce that cost.” Armstrong says they don’t have to wait for the EPA cleanup to use the property. “If the cleanup takes another decade or more, we can as soon as Basin Rec files their plan, gets the approval to do what they need to do, and get the financing in place; they can start building trails immediately and start building facilities there right away. We don't have to wait for the cleanup.”

Armstrong said it was a major item for them to insert protections so the county wouldn’t be sued for any further cleanup expenses.

“The Gillmor's as the selling party have liability right now because they’re in the chain of title. Under the federal environmental law that this property is governed by, anybody whoever owned that property is potentially fully liable for the cleanup. The EPA doesn't have to go on a pro rata basis they can target one person and take it all. Then everybody else in the chain can sue each other to try and level it all out. So, we wanted to make sure that we didn't get caught in that process. We are specifically receiving contribution protection which means that nobody can come after us. No private party that might otherwise be liable can come after the County and sue us to get contribution to the cleanup. Secondarily, we got a covenant not to sue from the EPA and from the Utah DEQ.

He said they’ve negotiated about the property for the past six years—and intensively for the last two. During that time, the county was also asked to financially support the preservation of the Osguthorpe farm.

Armstrong said they did support that project but looked at the Gillmor land as more valuable opportunity.

“This one, again has recreational opportunities. Osguthorpe at the end of the day we couldn't get that done. This has wildlife protective opportunities in it. Osguthorpe has got an eight-foot fence around the property that's going to be there forever, so there wasn't that wildlife protective factor in place. As we looked at all of the opportunities with Osguthorpe it really just came down at the end of the day to protecting that land. Taking development off seven units or eight units of development. I think they're allocated there that can be if you cluster you might be able to get 16 out of it. It just didn't add up to the same opportunity. We wanted to support that ultimately we did but, we didn't support it with open space monies it's alternative monies.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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