What was once envisioned as having MIDA – The Military Installation Development Authority, a state appointed political subdivision, build a hotel near the Jordanelle Reservoir to offer about discounted rooms to our military men and women – has turned into something very different for Wasatch County… KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher has more.
Almost 20 years ago, the 12-room Hill Haus, a small hotel that welcomed service people at Snowbasin Resort was torn down to make way for the 2002 Olympics. Later, a 450 room hotel was proposed for the Red Maple property located along State Route 248 east of Park City. Local opposition to the size of the hotel sent city officials looking to develop what’s known as the Triangle parcel along U.S. 40 and put the military hotel there.
Soon after, Wasatch County got involved and proposed moving the hotel to a 40 acre site just west of U.S. 40 and the Jordanelle Reservoir and below Deer Valley Resort’s southern boundary.
At that time, these 40 acres were considered as the MIDA control area. In the last six months however, some 5,000 acres of the land, about half of it being developed as the Mayflower Mountain property are now part of that MIDA control area.
Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis says the county has gone along with the change in authority reluctantly…
“It did expand,” Davis said. We weren't necessarily favorable to that. Once we had agreed to the project area with MIDA, the state stepped in and somewhat forced our hand a little bit to allow MIDA itself to be the land use authority on everything west of the highway. The County continues to be the land use authority east of the highway and so it wasn't the scenario we had hoped for. But we do have still in place quite a bit of control over things - the densities or set as they were even back when it was first established around 2016.”
There will be a number of Memorandum of Understanding documents that still need to be signed between Wasatch County and MIDA.
“This will be an operational one - which will define how permits are handled through the system,” Davis said. In the MIDA control area, which is the area to the west of the highway, all the permitting go through MIDA but it is coming back to the County to actually administer. And so, the County is going to be administering all permits in the area, but we need the memorandum of understanding completed with MIDA so that we know how the fees are to be paid and handled and they're working on that currently. Essentially they will apply to MIDA – MIDA will hand us the permits and then will process the permits to occupancy.”
Davis takes exception with the Mayflower Mountain developer, Extell’s claims that Wasatch County wasn’t moving fast enough. This, he says is why Extell – and not Wasatch County - wanted MIDA to take over and act as the control area for the thousands of acres.
Even though MIDA is now the land use authority, Wasatch County will still administer all permits. MIDA, says Davis, is a small organization with only half a dozen employees. However, he doesn’t expect the public will know the difference.
“I’m not sure the public as a whole will see much difference,” said Davis. I think the concern on the part of Extell is that the county’s processes were perhaps too slow for approvals. We don't believe that's the case, but the approval process is pretty well set so I’m not sure that it's going to be too different one way or the other but MIDA will be handling all of the approvals.”
But what does that mean for local residents? Davis says if they have any concerns or issues with the development – they’ll have to take it up with the MIDA board – located an hour’s drive away – rather than with their own local elected representatives.
“We have similar concerns,” Davis said. We are supposed to have an elected official on that on that board - it hasn't happened yet. That actually is a requirement of the MIDA statute. We have picked councilman Goode, Danny Goode, to be that person but it's an appointment from the governor - that hasn't happened yet. In addition, the parcel of property that is supposed to be given to MIDA on the west side has not been donated yet and that was another requirement of all the agreements - so there's still a few things that have to happen. I think as far as the rest of the public in that area, it will be more difficult for them to have representation for those issues.”
Davis says they’re also waiting to see an operation agreement signed between Deer Valley Resort and Extell – an agreement that the county is banking on.