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Summit County Council to revisit open space spending rules

The first Truth in Taxation hearing will be Dec. 6, 2023, at 6 p.m. in the Sheldon Richins Building (above) in Kimball Junction.
Summit County
The county council will meet at the Richins Building in Kimball Junction starting at 4:25 p.m.

The Summit County Council meets Wednesday and may approve new requirements for how its Open Space Advisory Committee spends public bond money to conserve land.

The council could pass a resolution that would set rules for the Open Space Advisory Committee, or OSAC. That committee is tasked with evaluating properties that the county could potentially purchase with the $50 million open space bond voters approved last year.

The resolution was first introduced last week. It was scheduled for a vote, but council members delayed action after hearing extensive concerns from the Summit Land Conservancy, a local nonprofit focused on open space preservation.

It’s back this week with one change. One of the provisions, which would have required the seller to have owned the property for at least two years, was amended. It now states that if a property has been owned for less than two years, its seller must disclose the price paid and other terms and conditions.

The resolution would prohibit the county from using open space funds for loans such as bridge loans during real estate transactions.

It would also require the county deal directly with property sellers rather than third parties, like the Summit Land Conservancy, in transactions involving multiple parties. In addition, financial details such as how much money sellers profit in transactions, would be public.

Summit County civil attorney David Thomas said last week the rules would be simply a guidepost, as three council members could vote to amend the resolution’s requirements anytime they deemed that warranted.

Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox told KPCW that she believes the resolution is unnecessary.

Summit County Interim Manager Janna Young told KPCW the goal of the resolution is to set guardrails for the open space purchase process.

“I know that the reason the council wanted to do this is they are being responsible to the taxpayers and to make sure that there’s guidance to the public, but also the advisory committee on how these funds will be spent," Young said.

"To make sure there is transparency, they’re aware of all the deals, the terms and conditions of any land deals that come before them, and that they again are being the best fiscal stewards of these monies.”

The council could also appoint members to OSAC Wednesday. Under the plan, three people from three separate advisory groups will be appointed. Each advisory group represents parts of the county - north, south, and west.

Also on the agenda, the council will hold a public hearing for long-range transportation plans, which lay out a project timeline through 2050. Some of the biggest roadway improvements for the county include a grade separation at Olympic Parkway and Ute Blvd. in Kimball Junction, and a new road connecting Bitner Ranch Rd and Silver Creek Rd.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 4:25 p.m. at the Richins Building in Kimball Junction. A link to attend virtually and the agenda can be found here.