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Wasatch Back mayors, council members support regional cooperation

econ summit panel.jpg
Crayton Weixler
Park City Chamber of Commerce
Moderator Tom Kelly asks a question to the Wasatch Back Economic Summit local government panel, including (from left) Heber City Councilmember Yvonne Barney, Park City Mayor Nann Worel, Summit County Council Chair Chris Robinson, Wasatch County Council Chair Mark Nelson and Kamas Mayor Matt McCormick.

At a recent conference about the local economy, Wasatch Back government leaders said they hope to form regional partnerships to address challenges related to growth and development.

Business leaders, elected officials and residents met in Midway last week at the Wasatch Back Economic Summit. They delved into topics like regional transit, affordable housing, preserving open space and tourism. And with projections for some local communities to more than double in population in coming decades, growth was at the center of those conversations.

A panel of mayors and council members from Park City, Summit County, Kamas, Heber City and Wasatch County agreed a regional approach to handling the growth would benefit all.

Moderator Tom Kelly asked the panel about a Wasatch Back regional governing body, which Park City Mayor Nann Worel called a “fabulous” idea.

“I'm excited because what I'm hearing up here, what I'm hearing in different meetings with different municipalities and jurisdictions, is there's an unprecedented desire to work regionally,” she said. “I think that has been missing in the past. I think that we get a lot accomplished if we work together.”

While they didn’t go into specifics about how to form a regional governing body, they touched on how they’ve collaborated in the past and what they want to do in the future.

One such recent effort is work to expand High Valley Transit into Wasatch County, with a route that would connect the two. High Valley Transit is Summit County’s free public transportation service. Panelists said a public transportation connection would benefit both the workforce and the environment.

In a breakout session, Wasatch County Manager Dustin Grabau said there could be buses running by early next year. But Wasatch County must levy sales taxes to fund it, and Grabau said some residents are hesitant about new taxes — and becoming the next Park City.

Heber City Councilmember Yvonne Barney later told KPCW that sentiment comes from Heber natives wanting to preserve the city’s agricultural heritage. She said while Heber wouldn’t follow Park City’s evolution exactly, she wants to do more for the many residents who live in one county and work in the other.

“It’s going to take an effort to walk across the line, extend the hand and say, ‘Hey, let’s keep this beautiful area that we all live in and protect it,’” Barney said. “And let’s protect what I like to call the Wasatch Front spread. We need to still protect our community individualities through keeping that open space between us, and at the same time still provide that unity that we need across the Wasatch Back.”

Summit County Councilmember Chris Robinson said along with transit, Summit and Wasatch counties should work together in land-use planning. He said visitors don’t distinguish between the two counties anyway, and growth will only exaggerate that blending.

For more on the summit, visit kpcw.org.

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