The Summit County Council on Wednesday night will be holding a public hearing on proposed Code amendments governing accessory buildings, just a week after the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission recommended the changes.
The amendments to the code break up accessory buildings into two categories: minor accessory structures would be allowed up to 2,000 square feet, with another minor building on the parcel up to 400 square feet.
A major accessory building, meanwhile, would be allowed up to 12,500 square feet under a conditional use permit.
New Snyderville Planning Commission Chairman Thomas Cooke said the body aimed to bring some predictability and methodology to the issue, before sending it to the county council.
“In the specific numbers you’re asking about, those are things that have been absent in the code in the past,” he said. “I think, previously, we had 15,000 was allowed as a conditional use permit. And we’ve had some problems. I’m going on my fourth year. And we’ve seen problems with accessory buildings creating tension with neighbors and neighborhood plans. So I think what staff and Planning Commission have come up with applies a little bit of math to the predictability of how we consider what can be allowed as an accessory building.”
He said the last time they updated the Snyderville general plan was in 2015.
“General plan is our visionary document. The Code is the regulatory companion to that. And part of our General Plan is to make sure—there’s a mandate from Council and there’s provisions in the General Plan that instruct us to make the Code as clear and predictable and as easy to understand as possible,” Cooke said. “And in lieu of having very few restrictions, I think we have worked with staff to come up with some common-sense ones.”
He acknowledged that any time regulations change, some residents who haven’t developed yet will be caught short by the new rules. But he said the plan and the code are an effort to maintain the Basin as a livable, desirable place
During the planning commission’s public hearing, Old Ranch Road resident Debi Scoggan, a former Snyderville planning commissioner herself, suggested that when multiple accessory structures exist, they should be clustered around the main building.
Cooke said that idea did get some traction with the planning commission.
“Clustering is a great principle that we aspire to and apply in other cases,” he said. “And I think that comment from Debi probably raised the most interest. … I think our conversation identified that it’s a little, maybe, tougher to do that in practice, when you have an existing structure and you’re adding an accessory building, vs. when you’re looking at a vacant piece of bare dirt, saying, how can I best plan out my house, and my horse barn, and whatever.”
He said their charge is to send on a recommendation to the Summit County Council, but not with every issue settled.
“One of the things that’s important is that Council has asked us to be thorough, but also move fast,” Cooke said. “And we’re sort of operating under the 80-20 rule, where we get something that we think is 80 percent good, and they have some other areas of consideration, to get it to them and highlight what those things are, for them to work out. I think the clustering is certainly one of those ideas that Debi brought up that had some traction with the Commission.”
Another item in the code changes would not allow steel shipping containers for accessory buildings. But they wouldn’t be abolished entirely.
“I do think that the county gets their fair share of complaints from neighbors that they’re unsightly, and they don’t do anything to add to the visual environment,” Cooke said. “But that was something that came up in our meeting, was that the language of the proposed Code amendments prohibited shipping containers as an accessory building. But it really doesn’t do anything to prohibit shipping containers. And so that’s a question for staff. What are we trying to do? Are we trying to ban shipping containers throughout, or are we trying to ban them being used, repurposed as an accessory building? That wasn’t entirely clear in the meeting, so we’re going to figure that out.”
The Summit County Council meets on the code changes at 6 p.m. on Wednesday via Zoom.