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Consultants assessing West Hills’ feasibility made some ‘incorrect assumptions,’ Summit County says

The lieutenant governor's feasibility study includes an updated map (above) showing which landowners remain after at least nine opted out of West Hills.
West Hills Feasibility Study
LRB Public Finance Advisors
The lieutenant governor's feasibility study includes an updated map (above) showing West Hills' 3,200 acres.

The second required public hearing about the study has yet to be scheduled.

After January’s open house about the county’s coming purchase of the Ure Ranch, Summit County Manager Shayne Scott said he got more questions about West Hills than the ranch itself.

West Hills is a proposed town between Kamas and Hideout. A few landowners there say they’d like more zoning flexibility to promote modest development; others disagree and want the area to stay rural.

Now the county government is clarifying what it can and can’t do regarding West Hills incorporation by posting frequently asked questions.

First, it doesn’t have the ability to approve or deny incorporation.

Summit County doesn’t yet own the 834-acre Ure Ranch, 700 acres of which fall within incorporation boundaries. Even if it did, it couldn’t vote “yea” or “nay.”

West Hills’ sponsors are working to get incorporation on November’s ballot. If they succeed, only registered voters within its proposed boundaries would vote on it, and a government is not a registered voter.

“We definitely don't have jurisdiction over that,” Scott said. “We don't have jurisdiction over the feasibility study.”

That’s the study the Utah lieutenant governor’s office commissions for every potential incorporation. In this case, LRB Public Finance Advisors found West Hills could generate enough tax revenue to survive, as long as there is “substantial” development.

As a government entity, Summit County isn’t allowed to take a position on incorporation, but it can comment on the feasibility study.

County officials say LRB used some “incorrect assumptions” in its study.

In an email to the consultants Dec. 12, Community Development Director Pat Putt laid out the county’s concerns.

“We thought that the growth projections, candidly, were a bit high,” Putt said on Local News Hour in January.

County planning staff say the consultants shouldn’t have assumed all the units in West Hills would be occupied, since Summit County classifies about 40% of its housing stock as “vacant.”

LRB also estimated sales tax would grow 17% year-over-year. That was the growth rate during the pandemic, but Putt said sales tax revenue growth is returning to pre-pandemic levels of between 3% and 5%.

The consultants used that data to conclude a potential West Hills government wouldn’t need to increase taxes on residents. The incorporation’s sponsor, Derek Anderson, told KPCW town supporters aren’t in favor of a tax increase.

LRB did not respond to a request for comment as of the morning of March 13.

LRB did respond to criticisms of its study at the first public hearing about West Hills incorporation Feb. 12. The consultants said they relied on development projections provided by Anderson to assess the town’s growth and tax revenue.

After that hearing, the lieutenant governor opened up the second and final opportunity for landowners to request to be excluded from West Hills’ boundaries. The last day to opt out is Wednesday, March 13.

Next, the lieutenant governor’s office will schedule a second public hearing on the feasibility study. Then there will be another petition circulated to get West Hills incorporation on the November ballot.