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Equestrian Center's Appeal to Summit County Council Hinges on "Human Scale"

The Summit County Council met last Wednesday on the appeal from the Whileaway Ranch Indoor Riding Arena and Horse Boarding Facility, and it has not yet reached a decision.


The Council heard from both sides, held a brief executive session, and decided to take the matter further under advisement.


The Whileaway Ranch, proposed for lower Silver Creek, got a negative recommendation from the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission late last year. In February, an appeal went to the County Council, and they remanded it to the Snyderville Planners after the appellant agreed to make some changes.


On Wednesday, Deputy County Attorney Jami Brackin reported the Planning Commission was asked to look at three issues during the remand session. She said the panel agreed that Whileaway Ranch was compliant on two items—architectural requirements and the materials.


But the Planning Commission, Brackin said, again denied the project because it was lacking a “human scale.”


“There was a conversation about, ‘well, if it’s not human-scale, what is it,’ and they talked about, well, maybe it’s an airplane scale—in other words, as viewed from above,” Brackin said. “Or maybe it’s vehicle scale. And the conversations with the Planning Commission, what they determined was that this was really at an equestrian, not human, scale, that the size and the shape and the size was based on an equestrian scale, not a human scale.”


The attorney for the Ranch, Brent Bateman, said his client, Valerie Geist, has done everything asked from her by the planning staff and the County Code. But the requirement for a “human scale” is too subjective. 


“There is no that my client could possibly look at “human scale”, and know what it means, know what they need to do in order to comply,” he said. “We’ve tried to zero in on that as much as possible, and that has included discussions with staff about what human scale means, and that has included discussions with architects about what human scale means. And we have added the aspects to this application in order to meet human scale as near as we can zero in on it.”


Bateman added that the county’s own staff agreed they met the “human scale” test.


Valerie Geist also spoke briefly. Noting that she gets passionate about her application, she said she isn’t proposing the facility for commercial use.


“I don’t think people understand what this is for,” Geist said. “First of all, it’s like my home. And my horses, they’re like my family. And I want them to live on a property with me. And I have struggled for eight years now having to rent. This is not open to the public, big commercial horse boarding. It’s my private home with a small barn. My horses are high-end dressage horses, and they’re very delicate. And in order for me to live in Park City with horses, I have to be able to ride and exercise them in the winter. You can’t do that outside in snow.”


She said she would have preferred a smaller scale project, but had to follow the county’s building code.


“The arena is actually bigger than it needs to be, cause we had to put façade shifts, pop-outs, porticoes and all kinds of things on there to satisfy all these architectural requirements,” she said. “It would be a lot safer to have two small buildings. It would actually be safer to just build a small indoor arena under 10,000 square feet, a separate stable building. In fact, I don’t even want them to be attached, but I had to attach them. I’m going to have to put a fire door to separate the two buildings.”


Councilor Glenn Wright told KPCW that in their discussion, they talked about the size of the structures. And councilor Chris Robinson suggested moving some buildings around so they wouldn’t impact neighbors as much.


However, Wright said he couldn’t give any details on what was discussed in closed session.

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