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Summit County buys 40 acres in Silver Creek for $4M

Bitner connector alignment.jpg
Map courtesy of Summit County
The Summit County Council selected the road alignment outlined in blue more than two years ago to connect Silver Creek Road, in purple on right, to Bitner Ranch Road, on left. The county last week purchased a major portion of the right of way for the new road, as well as 37 surrounding acres, for $3.8 million.

Summit County is acquiring land to build a road connecting Bitner Ranch Road to the Silver Creek neighborhood. It recently spent nearly $4 million for 40 acres in the middle of the proposed road route. The county says the 37 acres the road would not cut through could be subdivided or used as a wetland mitigation bank.

The process to build another road in and out of Silver Creek has been going on for more than a decade. Two years ago, Summit County decided where the road would go. That started the process to buy rights of way from multiple landowners along the route.

Last week, the county announced it was buying not only the 3-acre right of way through land west of Greenfield Road, it was buying the whole parcel.

According to a report from Summit County staffers, the county spent $3.8 million — about $2.6 million from savings and the rest from a corridor preservation fund — for 40 acres in the middle of the proposed road route.

The Silver Creek neighborhood is north of the intersection of Interstate 80 and U.S. 40. The new road would run east/west, connecting Bitner Ranch Road with Silver Creek Road near the Mountain Life Church.

A creek bed runs through the land, which also holds a single-family home. The staff report identifies the location as an ideal spot for what's called a wetland mitigation bank.

If a construction project impacts existing wetlands, federal law requires those damages be offset in another location. Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said if an entity does not have a mitigation bank, it is required to replace more wetlands than it disturbs. The county does not now have a mitigation bank, and Fisher said acquiring a bank was one potential benefit of this purchase, but not the only one.

“If we want to recover some of the funds that, or all of the funds that, we use to purchase the property in the first place, we could subdivide it under its current zoning and sell off the lots in order to put those monies back into county coffers,” he said.

Fisher said the county is still acquiring rights of way and negotiating with two or three other property owners to build the road. Some property owners have appealed the county’s valuation of their land to the state ombudsman. The staff report detailing this purchase shows the 3 acres needed for the right of way was valued at $98,000 per acre. The county purchased the entire parcel for $95,000 per acre.

If the county cannot reach a deal with the landowners, it would be empowered to proceed with the project anyway.

“We always have the ability to use eminent domain," Fisher said. "We haven't had to do that up until this point on this project. There are still some properties, or some right of way, that is not acquired. So there may be a point at which we do have to talk eminent domain.”

Fisher said if the county invokes eminent domain, it would still have to pay the landowners fair market value for their land.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.