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Summit County Council Has No Decision on Silver Creek Connector Road, After Hours Of Debate

The Summit County Commission, meeting November 6th,  did not come to a decision about where to locate a connector road that would provide a second access to the Silver Creek area.

The Council, and their staff, will be considering the comments after a three-hour public hearing with sometimes-heated debate from  an audience of 70 to 80 people.

County officials said they’ve been  trying for the past 10 years to  figure out how to create a link from lower Silver Creek west to the Bitner frontage road.

County staffers have narrowed down the choices to two recommended options for a 36-foot-wide, two-lane road.    One, called the Frontage Road, would mostly parallel Interstate 80.     The other is further up the hill, called the Church Street option since it runs by the Mountain Life Church and is also called the Bitner Alternative, since it’s been altered at the suggestion of the Bitner family, major land owners there.

That option drops down the hill to connect to Bitner Ranch Road.

The Council heard from 25 speakers Wednesday night.    And the debate often boiled down to residents explaining why they don’t want a connector road near them.

The Frontage Road plan is opposed by residents of the nearby East Creek Ranch area, who say they don’t want the impacts of a major road link.    Paul Henry spoke, representing the Homeownes Association of East Creek.        

“The Frontage Road option impacts more wetland areas, comes closer to residential structures, affects many more houses directly, and families, affects more pedestrians, puts more children at risk, and is closer to the Interstate, and therefore likely to add more non-local traffic through our community, while being less useful as an emergency exit for the upper parts of Silver Creek.”

Critics also said the Frontage Road  doesn’t provide an effective  second access for safety purposes, because it’s so close to the existing Silver Creek access.    They said a disaster situation could close off both roads.

The Bitner family also objects to the Frontage Road.    Their attorney, Ted Barnes, said that alignment would cut through the middle of their sheep ranching operation, and legally would  prevent them from placing a conservation easement on the land.

One of the family members, Julie Bitner Hall, said they’ve been in the area for 100 years but are now struggling to maintain their ranching operation.       

“Those bucks are not in that pasture because we like sheep, and we just want to look at em.    They are our livelihood.  And I think that when you go out to your job, you should think about that, that there’s still people willing to give you lanolin, just so you can shampoo your hair, so you can have shampoo and lotion, and you can wear your wool socks and your wool coats.  That comes from somewhere, and we’re hoping it’s not New Zealand.  We hope it’s lamb and wool from America.  Support us.   Care about us.  It’s not just you, it’s us.  And we have given up a lot for this community.  I think it’s your turn to give up something.”     

Meanwhile, residents near the Church Street alignment objected to the impacts of that route.

Dana Witkins said she favors using the Frontage Road, but she sympathizes with the residents who would have to live near it.      

“But what I would highly recommend is closing off Greenfield and Earl Street from the Frontage Road, so that people can’t use it as an access point to go through their neighborhood.   You could put barriers there that, in a case of emergency, would allow you to get out, but would prevent traffic going through your neighborhood.  cause nobody wants that.  I think we’re all frustrated and we’re all up in arms because we all care about our kids.”       

A couple of speakers said the county should look again at using an existing underpass crossing Interstate 80.    But Public Works Director Derrick Radke said that access is too small for most fire trucks, and the response time for emergency vehicles would be increased.

Henry Adams said he spoke as someone who now lives in the East Creek area, but may someday move further up hill.    He said he’s come to the conclusion that he doesn’t want the county to do anything.         

“What Silver Creek wants is what Silver Creek has always wanted, and that’s nothing.  Just leave us alone, and we won’t bother you, and it’ll be fine.  If this has to be done, considering that I live in East Creek Ranch now, of course I don’t like the Frontage Road.  But considering I might end up living near that blue line—honest, full disclosure, it makes more sense to me to have the Bitner Alt One, personal opinion, assuming that I might be negatively affected by that one, one day, personally.  I’ve got a four-year-old daughter and a three-month-old son.  We live on our old street, and I’m very concerned about traffic and the danger involved there, if the Frontage Road is an option.  But, again, I leave this meeting deciding that, as a true Silver Creekan, I don’t want anything.”

Silver Creek resident Henry Adams

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.