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Silver Creek Residents Allege County Mishandled Whileaway Ranch Approval in Lawsuit

Summit County

Summit County has been sued over its approval of a horse training facility in lower Silver Creek.


The litigation in Third District Court contends that the county’s approval of the Whileaway Ranch was done without due process, there was little chance given for public comment and the project doesn’t comply with building design standards set in the Snyderville Code.


The suit comes while the Summit County Council is trying to decide how to regulate accessory buildings, intended to support a primary residential home.


The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 18 people who live or own property near the Whileaway Ranch site, which is a parcel of about two and a half acres in Silver Creek.


The owner of Whileaway, Val Geist, submitted the application last fall for a horse boarding facility that included a barn, an outdoor arena and five pens.


In October, according to the suit, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission held their first meeting on the project, which included a public hearing. The next month, the commission denied a conditional-use permit for the project, ruling it didn’t meet a “human scale.”


The plaintiffs argue that the 14,100 square-foot commercial barn is not an accessory to Geist’s planned 3,500 square-foot residential home, and that the accessory buildings in their neighborhood aren’t even half the size of the barn.


Geist appealed the Snyderville Commission’s decision to the Summit County Council. The lawsuit says the council, in February, decided to return the project to the planning commission but gave no direction to the planners on how to re-evaluate the project.


At a meeting in early March, the Snyderville commission again denied the application, saying that the “human scale” still didn’t comply with the Snyderville code.


The plaintiffs object that the project returned to county council without Geist having to file a second appeal or pay the fees involved.


On April 21 the Council approved the permit, adding a condition that the barn be moved to the eastern side of the lot. But the council, allegedly, never showed where the Snyderville Commission made an error.


The lawsuit contends that the county during its review process held seven meetings on the project, but only allowed the public to speak at the first session. It says that the project isn’t an accessory use, so its approval is arbitrary, capricious and illegal. 


And it alleges the county council violated the state’s open public meetings law by discussing Whileaway Ranch in closed session, ostensibly to consider “litigation” even though the current lawsuit alleges that there was no imminent nor pending legal action.


The lawsuit is asking the court to reinstate the denial by the Snyderville Commission, or remand the application.


The Summit County Attorney’s Office has not commented on the suit at this time.

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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