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Summit Councilors Propose Letting Recused Colleague Back Into Dakota Pacific Debate

Summit County

It looks like the Summit County Council will be busy over the next several weeks with the Dakota Pacific project at Kimball Junction. They will be taking a deep dive into the major items involved in a revised development agreement for the property.


However, Councilor Chris Robinson recused himself from the Dakota discussion over three months ago. But during Wednesday’s Council session, his colleagues said he should be part of their decision.


The applicants are asking the county to amend an approval given some 12 years ago for the Boyer Tech Park, and in its place allow a mixed-use center with 1100 residential units, commercial and office space and a hotel.


The planning staff has broken up the review into major items such as transportation, affordable housing and sustainability. Councilors are contemplating that there will be sub-group meetings on these topics, including the developers, staff, and two councilors.


Before that, though, Councilor Roger Armstrong proposed that Robinson be allowed back into the discussion.


He recalled that the recusal stemmed from an incident about a year ago. Robinson was out of state and got a phone call from a friend/acquaintance who had tickets for a Utah Jazz game that he found he couldn’t use.


Robinson couldn’t use them, but suggested perhaps his kids and their friends could take the tickets, and they did.


Armstrong said that when Dakota discussions started several months later, Robinson realized his friend had a connection to the project.


“Chris had a lightbulb moment when he made the connection that, the person calling him was a member of the Executive Team of the developer in this project. And Chris felt sick that he had not connected those dots before.”


Armstrong said Robinson reimbursed the cost of the six Jazz tickets, which was about $4,000. 


Armstrong said while he understands Robinson’s decision, he feels that his colleague’s input is needed for an important decision such as Dakota.


“The Chris Robinson I know is ethical enough that I would trust his judgment, regardless of almost any value of gift, other than an absolute bribe,” Armstrong said. “I don’t believe that basketball tickets, even at that value, is something that would—he would be inclined to compromise his principles around him. And I would be inclined to invite him back to rejoin this deliberative process and the discussion that we’re gonna have, because I think that this is probably one of the most significant developments that we have before us, and that we may have before us in the next several years. And I think it’s important that we get it right. And I think the residents of our county and the people who depend upon us, are being slighted by not having his skillset on this.”


Other councilors—Glenn Wright, Doug Clyde and Malena Stevens—supported bringing Robinson back, pending a legal opinion from the County Attorney’s office.


Robinson said he was apologetic that his lack of foresight led to the whole situation. But he said he was humbled and touched by the confidence from his colleagues.


“I hate being sidelined, although I have enjoyed a little extra time,” he said. “If this goes forward, I’m not looking forward to having to listen to all the previous discussions that have been held. But I do think this is a really important project. And I think subject to the county attorney’s office determining that it’s appropriate, there isn’t a mandatory reason that I not engage now. And subject to there not being any other substantive objections that come up, I would be in favor of that.”


County attorney Margaret Olson said the incident didn’t require a mandatory recusal. But she said her office will come up with a more detailed opinion as soon as possible.


Turning to Dakota’s development plan, Armstrong raised another issue. He said he didn’t want to get deep into the details of the project until some basic issues were resolved—one of those being density.


He said a plan with 1100 residences runs into Snyderville Code Section 2.3—saying the county will not create additional density unless it meets a compelling, countervailing public interest.


However, deputy county attorney Jami Brackin said it’s been determined that Dakota’s plan is not adding density.


“What we’re doing in this proposed Development Agreement, what would happen is we would take the nebulous standards of a Community Commercial zone, and fix it with something we can measure and really talk about,” Brackin said. “And that would be a fixed square footage. So the number of square feet is actually on the low end of what could be built, taking into account the setbacks, the height and everything else. That was the metric.”


Armstrong said that, with respect, he doesn’t agree.


“We’ve taken in these discussions to discussing the residential component in terms of square footage,” he said. “And that feels remarkably dishonest, as we have discussions of residential units. We don’t typically talk about residential units in terms of square footage. If we did, we would have certain areas in this county that—I don’t know where they would stand in terms of units of residential density. If we took the Colony, Glenwilde, some units in Deer Valley and talked about them in terms of square footage, I suspect our density would probably be off the chart if we did that. And I don’t think it translates well that we continue to do it. And it creates an odd fiction.”


An updated review of the project’s economic impact analysis is scheduled for next month.


Brackin said after the sub-groups meet on the project, she estimated that a development agreement “will be ready for prime time” as she put it, in about six weeks.

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