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Residents Voice Opinions To Summit County Council Regarding Connecting Silver Creek To Bitner Road

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Summit County
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The Summit County Council drew a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday as they looked at options for a road to connect the lower Silver Creek neighborhood to the Bitner frontage road.

In the end, the Council didn’t make a decision. A long line of speakers did not come to a consensus supporting either of two major options. Citizens threw out ideas for a third option or asked the county to go back to the drawing board.

The Council will take up the issue again in early November.

Over 100 residents and landowners came to the Richins Services Building to talk about a road link the county has been contemplating for several years.

The primary reason is public safety, with County Development Director Pat Putt noting that Silver Creek has some 5-600 residents but only one road access in an emergency.

The county has been looking at four options—a frontage road alignment, the lowest route, which would parallel Interstate 80, and three other routes, up the hill to the north.

Of the uphill options, the county staff narrowed down the choices to what is called the Church Street option. The route would run through property held by a local church. At the suggestion of the Bitners, the family owning the historic ranch property to the west, the revised route runs along the edge of the church land, then dips down into the Bitner land and eventually connects with the Bitner frontage road, near the fire station.

The Council heard from about 20 speakers, including a number who argued for the frontage route, saying that had been favored in the past by county staff, and by a survey taken at Silver Creek.

Newt Collinson said his home would be adversely impacted by the upper route. He said he didn’t want any connector road at all, or barring that, he was for the frontage road Collinson also said that the road was supposed to just be an emergency access, but its purpose has been expanded by the county.

“It was originally my understanding that the primary purpose of the connector road is to provide secondary emergency access for fire employees,” Collinson explained. “This would require only a single lane or very narrow two-lane road, potentially with bollards to ensure emergency use only. However, during my meeting a few weeks ago with the county, as explained to me when I met with them that an 80-foot right-of-way was planned, with a paved road bike lane on each side of the road, plus a walking path, plus potential for a horse path, plus extensive room for snow storage. This massive expansion is simply not necessary. I mention that ingress and egress in case of emergencies is a good idea. Making it a connector that is open all the time for non-emergency use is a different story.”

Meanwhile, the frontage route was opposed by residents from the newly developed Woodside neighborhood, who say it will have thousands of cars going by their homes.

Although the Bitners favor what’s called the “Bitner/Church Street” alignment, the attorney for the family, Ted Barnes, said they took issue with the county staff’s map of that route. He said they favor a version where the alignment through Bitner property is set a bit more uphill to the north.

In any event, the attorney said the family certainly opposes the frontage route, which would slice through their property.

“We’ve been informed-- because there were discussions about the possibility of preserving conservation easements and other sorts of things with the ranch—we’ve been informed by those who know that putting a road through the middle of the ranch at the bottom, which this frontage-road alignment would do, would disqualify this land from historical preservation should we ever elect to go forward with the conservation measures,” Barnes continued. “Again, our support is not for this particular one, but for the one that we originally proposed, which tucks up closer to the north.”

Speakers also had various ideas for a third option. Eric Klosterman suggested that, rather than a connector carrying thousands of cars, the route should have an electronic gate, which would only allow transit buses or emergency vehicles.

There is a pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 80. Some residents said that should be converted into a vehicle access that could connect to the fire station at Promontory. Another speaker asked if the Silver Creek area could have its own fire station.

Nancy Garbett said she lives in Stagecoach Estates, one of the large-lot developments in the hills accessed by the private Bitner Ranch Road. She noted that when a spill took place on that road earlier this year, they had no other way out.

Annette Velarde asked the Council to put off a decision until this January and allow the residents to look for another solution.

“I am requesting that this Council delay their decision until January of 2020, to allow Silver Creek residents to organize and collect questions, do research, and perhaps take a vote or survey addressing the connector road options,” Velarde said. “Our findings would then be presented to this Council for consideration prior to your vote. And the basis for this is saying we have been collecting information for years from the neighborhood, on what their preferences and values are. But the neighborhood has changed drastically in just the past three years. And the number of people there certainly were not included in the previous questionnaires. So my request is that you pump the brakes, and give us a chance to organize ourselves, and then present to you our ideas and requests.”

Council Members, though, said they want to come to a decision while they’re in their budget process for next year. They set November 6th as the next meeting on the topic, and directed Velarde to get started on a study and analysis with her neighbors

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covers Summit County meetings and issues. KPCW snagged him from The Park Record in the '80s, and he's been on air and covering the entire county ever since. He produces the Week In Review podcast, as well a heads the Friday Film Review team.
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