Wasatch Environmental Update for March 27, 2016
By John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons
“FCOZ and MRZ, two zoning ordinances for Our Canyons”
Spring has officially arrived in our Valley and things are greening up. It’s a buoyant season as we emerge from the winter’s darkness and life reasserts itself. In the Wasatch Canyons, we are told, the snow is still inviting for recreation, as it has been renewed periodically with new storms that have incidentally cleaned out the unhealthy winter smog in the Valley.
Here in the lowlands, Save Our Canyons is deeply involved with the deliberations of Salt Lake County’s recently created Mountainous Planning Commission which is studying the zoning ordinances that will regulate development in the Tri-Canyon Area of the Wasatch Range that falls within Salt Lake County.
For many years, we have relied on the county ordinance known as FCOZ, or Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone, to keep ski resorts and other ambitious developers in check, in order to help us protect “the wildness and the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains, canyons and foothills.”
Now, however, the new Mountainous Planning Commission is undertaking a review of FCOZ. It is also considering a new ordinance, called Mountain Resort Zone, focused specifically on property owned by the ski resorts. The ski resorts and their allies are using this opening to propose wholesale revisions of FCOZ, decreasing the requirements of setbacks from riparian areas and wetlands, for example, and raising the limit of buildable slopes. Lawyers for the ski resorts argue that the resorts are hamstrung in competition with resorts in other locations that have more freedom. They forget that these Wasatch Mountains that give them the greatest snow on earth also serve a large nearby population for much of their water supply and year-round dispersed recreation.
So now, while the new zoning ordinances are in discussion, Save Our Canyons will be working hard to make their rules at least as strict as those in the past. But when push comes to shove, we may ask for an outpouring of letters and messages to the members of the Planning Commission and the County Council.
Go to our website, save our canyons dot org, and put your name on our mailing list to receive updates on the important zoning deliberations that will affect the future of our precious mountains and canyons.