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Morgan County residents provide mixed bag of thoughts on proposed resort community

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Updated - May 23rd, 2019 @ 11:31pm | Posted - May 23rd, 2019 @ 11:28pm



MORGAN — With a plan on the table to turn a large swath of land near Peterson, Morgan County, into a private residential resort community, county officials turned to the public Thursday for input on how best deal with the proposal.

The plan would add 750 residential units along with private amenities, like a ski resort and golf course, in a place called Wasatch Peak Ranch. It’s still in the rezoning change phase of development, and renderings of what the community would look like aren’t out yet.

However, representatives from the landowners, Wasatch Peak LLC, and the county spent the evening explaining the rezoning plan to the community. It even included the possible height of some buildings and how they would change the landscape.

Residents from throughout the county also got their first opportunity to voice their opinions on the project during the Morgan County Planning Commission meeting. Some were enthusiastic about the project, while others weren’t, and some figured population change to a vastly rural community was inevitable. It was a mixed bag of concern, optimism, excitement and caution in a civil matter.

However, that’s exactly the wide range of reaction the commission was hoping for while planning out the future of the land. The public comment portion of the meeting wrapped up after about an hour and more than a dozen speakers.

Among the concerns were questions about benefits a private community would give the public, the type of residents who would be coming into the county, and if about $9 million the project is currently forecasted to bring the county in revenue annually would be worth the cost of growth. A few complaints centered around the “ultra-rich” people who would move to the area. With the lack of other resources, residents said, it could lead to more rezoning for concessions currently not available in the county.

“Before you know it, we’re Park City 2.0,” Russ Lucido, of Peterson, told the committee.

“I feel like this development — we don’t have anything in common with them. It’s going to be a ‘them vs. us’ proposition,” added county resident Zach Taylor. “Onto benefits for Morgan, I feel like they’re very one-sided. I don’t see many benefits besides maybe some financial benefits, but perhaps not all of us are ready to sell the souls of our community in the name of financial benefits.”

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Residents appeared either enthusiastic about what some described as a “world-class” development or at least reluctantly accepting of it. A few residents pointed out that since it’s private land, the owner should have the say in what goes there. There was optimism that it will increase the county’s tax base, allowing for upgrades throughout the county.

“I think when you double the tax base in Morgan County, it would be helpful,” said Ron Whitear, of Peterson. “What I’d like to do in front of this committee is say don’t raise our damn taxes when you get this big windfall coming in. Try to make it work for everybody.”

One person even joked he would be excited if population growth led to a Subway sandwich shop, while another suggested perhaps some sort of yearly festival welcoming neighbors outside of Wasatch Peaks Ranch and opportunity to meet and try some of the private facilities.

Some of the ranchers who live near the land hoped it the development won’t alter water rights and even an opportunity to move cattle in some of the undevelopable parts of the land.

“Change is going to affect me more than anybody but it has to happen. It’s inevitable,” said Michael Morgan, a rancher close to the proposed community.

Morgan County Planning Commission chairman Gary Ross said there will be more public comment opportunities for residents in the county in the coming months. He planned to put documents mentioned during the meeting online for residents to see, as well.

“I think we got enough to walk away from it tonight,” he said as the meeting adjourned. “This matters so much. … We live in an interesting time where things get very polarized, and what you guys demonstrated tonight is rare and pretty awesome — that we can voice our concerns, but we have to come to a common ground. … Civil discussions like this, that’s what’s going to shape our future.”

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