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Summit County Council Settles On Policy For Accessory Buildings

After a lengthy discussion, the Summit County Council on Wednesday adopted a new policy on accessory buildings.     The decision was a split 3-2 vote.

The Council’s vote came just a couple of days before the county’s temporary moratorium on new applications for the side buildings was due to expire.

The County Council looked at four options and in the end, voted for a set of guidelines recommended by the Snyderville Planning Commission.

Voting in favor were Council Members Roger Armstrong, Doug Clyde and Glenn Wright.    Voting against were Council Members Chris Robinson and Malena Stevens.

Accessory buildings have attracted controversy, in areas like lower Silver Creek and Old Ranch Road, because of criticisms that owners are putting up too many small buildings, or are constructing big, arena-like structures.

Six months ago, the council enacted a temporary zoning moratorium, which expires on Friday September 10th.

Council member Doug Clyde told KPCW this was one of those health, safety and welfare issues where government had to act.      

"Are you better off if your neighbor is allowed to build a huge industrial-like-looking building next to you?  Or are you better off if you restrict that use?   And I think there is growing concern that those uses are partially out of control, and most importantly, that we could end up with a plethora of those uses, and they could get grandfathered in, it would be impossible for us to change if we don’t put some controls on it now.”

The Snyderville Commission recommended three classes of structures.    A Minor Accessory Building can be allowed up to 2000 square feet, with a smaller shed up to 400 square feet.

A Major Accessory Building would be allowed to a maximum of 12,500 square feet.    Only one would be permitted per lot, and would not be allowed on a lot less than an acre.

Finally, shipping containers would be prohibited in all zones.

Council Member Chris Robinson opposed the restrictions, especially a height limit of 26 feet.     He also said the limits were a one-size-fits all formula that would allow little development on a large piece of property.

Robinson favored using a percentage or metric to apply to all properties.    But Staff Planner Ray Milliner said they couldn’t find a formula that worked for everybody’s parcel.    

“The ratio always worked well for a large lot but not a small lot.  Or if it worked well for a small lot, then it didn’t work well for the large lots, which meant that all of a sudden, we were doing three or four different ratios, depending on the size of the lots.    And it got very complicated.  It didn’t seem like it was something that would be very easy to put into practice.   And so that’s why our recommendation didn’t come back with that kind of a matrix or ratio or whatever you wanna call it.”

Council member Roger Armstrong said he can support structures built for toys, or equipment or equestrian uses—up to a point.     But he said more and more is getting built in the basin.       

“If we want rooftops, we’re getting them in spades.  The entrance to Old Ranch Road now looks entirely different than it did 10 years ago.    It’s no longer something I would consider Rural Residential.  It’s looking a lot more like Bel Air, California.   It’s just a collection of very large houses clustered together.  When you start getting into some of the ranch properties, and even those are acquiring more buildings on those lots.   Go ahead and allow more rooftops, more accessory buildings, larger accessory buildings, a lot more indoor riding arenas and sport courts and horse storage places and toy barns and on and on and on.”

Meanwhile, Robinson told Armstrong he’s trying to ensure flexibility for property owners.    

“You talk as if I’m asking for unfettered property rights.  I’m asking for a small percentage.   I’m asking for a single-digit percentage to allow flexibility to use property.   There are people that want to own these parcels, that would like to do something with them.  They’re not agriculturalists.  To be able to be able to use a single-digit percentage of that land.   And nowhere have you heard me say, I want 5 or 10 big buildings.  I’ve said I’m willing to limit it to three big buildings.”

Council member Malena Stevens told KPCW she voted against the planning commission option because it doesn’t do enough to balance the interests of individual property owners with the overall community.    She added that during public input, some concerned residents thought the option was too restrictive to allow for equestrian uses.   Stevens said the guidelines didn’t include changes responding to public input.

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