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Silver Creek Equestrian Arena Development Approved by Summit County Council

Following a contentious history over the past few months, the proposed Whileaway Ranch Indoor Riding Arena and Horse Boarding Facility in lower Silver Creek has been approved by the Summit County Council in a 3-1 vote, overriding an earlier denial by the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission.


Council chair Glenn Wright and councilors Chris Robinson and Malena Stevens voted in support of the appeal. The dissenting vote came from Roger Armstrong while Doug Clyde abstained.


Resident Valerie Geist applied for the plan at 7664 North Whileaway Road. The fate of the proposal has ping-ponged back and forth in recent months. 


Late in 2020, the Snyderville Planning Commission denied a conditional use permit for the Ranch. When Geist appealed to the county council in February, they remanded it back to the planning commission with the applicant agreeing to make changes to the colors and materials.


The Snyderville planners again denied the application saying the plan didn’t meet a “human scale” called for in the Snyderville code.


On Wednesday, Robinson said he could support the project on the condition that the location of the arena building would be flipped.


“I suggested that the consistency with adjacent neighbors and the scaling and massing of having a 14,000-foot building along the frontage of North Whileaway Road did not meet—created impacts upon the surrounding neighbors,” he said. “And I suggested that the site plan be reversed to move the indoor riding arena to the east side of the property instead of along the west frontage.”


Stevens agreed that the character of the lower Silver Creek area has change, but said that it is still an equestrian neighborhood under the Snyderville general plan and code, and that she supported Robinson’s position.


“Within the code, it doesn’t state that there have to be a certain lot size before someone can apply for a CUP for a 10,000-plus-square-foot accessory dwelling unit,” she said. “With it being a quasi-commercial use that will be used on this property, that’s also allowed within our current code with mitigating factors that are within the staff report.”


But Roger Armstrong said that the scale of the ranch isn’t appropriate because that area of Silver Creek has relatively small properties.


“I think a 14,400-square-foot building, which I think is close to what we’re talking about here, how it sits within a community with the largest other accessory building, as I recall, was in the 4700-5000-square-foot range, something like that, in this neighborhood, it’s going to stand out, whether you locate that at the front of the property or the back of the property,” he said.

Clyde said he felt that he needed to abstain because he hadn’t attended the most recent discussions of the project, but he wanted the public to know that in his view, accessory building development is out of control.


“And we really need to do something, if we are going to preserve the integrity of the land development that’s already occurred out there,” he said. “Because it’s like, okay, well, let’s throw in a few containers too. I think if you’ve got five acres, you probably ought to at least have five containers on your property, right? I am very concerned about the proliferation of accessory structures. I am very concerned about these commercial riding stables that I don’t think we really have any good way to control. And they only become a problem in the aggregate.”


In March the council approved a six-month temporary halt on new accessory applications so the county can make new rules for sheds, barns and arenas.  

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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