No town for Big Cottonwood

There’s an effort afoot to incorporate much of Big Cottonwood Canyon into a new township.

At a recent community meeting, leaders of this effort stated multiple times that their desire to create their own town in Big Cottonwood Canyons is to get out of environmental protections and anti-development ordinances, such as FCOZ, that are enforced by Salt Lake County. Those behind the push for a new town have started a new organization, Friends of Big Cottonwood Canyon, as a front for their efforts.

The first step in creating this new town and subverting Salt Lake County’s environmental protections for the Wasatch is to get canyon property owners to sign a petition in support of a feasibility study to be conducted by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. If you’re a landowner in the canyon DO NOT SIGN THE PETITION.

Save Our Canyons is deeply skeptical of this effort and is urging individuals with property in Big Cottonwood Canyon to not sign the petition requesting the feasibility study. Most importantly, understand that if you’re a landowner not registered to vote in the canyon, signing the feasibility petition removes your say to have any further vote in the future of Big Cottonwood and the creation of Brighton City.

While we understand there are questions canyon landowners are interested in knowing the answers to, such as the amount of money going down canyon in taxes versus those returning up canyon in services, we feel there are better means of identifying answers and finding solutions than incorporating. Creating a new town has far reaching consequences and will likely result in significantly weakened environmental protections.

Save Our Canyons has a few immediate concerns about this effort:

Disenfranchising property owners:
If you’re a landowner who is not registered to vote in the canyon, signing the feasibility study petition helps to trigger a vote on the creation of the new city. The only people who will be allowed to vote on the creation of the town are the 200 or so registered voters living in upper Big Cottonwood Canyon. Signing this petition as someone not registered to vote in the canyon allows the city vote to go forward and eliminates you from having any further voice in the project. Under current circumstances those with property in the canyons, but registered to live outside of them, are represented by elected county officials who also are responsible for canyon issues. If the incorporation is successful and the city created, a new town council of five local residents will be formed. Those with property but not registered to vote will be disenfranchised and without political recourse on important issues impacting the canyon.

If you’re a landowner in the canyon DO NOT SIGN THE PETITION.

Stripping protections for the environment, wildlife, and watershed:
A one page Frequently Asked Questions (attached) sheet being circulated by supporters of incorporation cites their motivation for their efforts as recent political struggles over FCOZ, Mountain Accord, the Mountainous Planning District and the Central Wasatch Commission. Organizers have stated at recent public meeting that their real purpose behind the incorporation effort is to strip the county of land use authority for Big Cottonwood and for that authority to be gained by the newly incorporated town.

Such a drastic change in land use authority would have drastic consequences for the canyon. While the FAQ says that this new town would not have land use authority due to the Mountainous Planning District, the proponents of this incorporation have been fighting the renewal of the Mountainous Planning District. Should proponents be successful with both the incorporation and their efforts to sunset the Mountainous Planning District it’s likely land use authority would go to the new township.

This same individuals at the forefront of creating a new town were involved in efforts earlier this year to weaken FCOZ, fight the Mountainous Planning District, stop Mountain Accord, kill the Central Wasatch Commission, and strip Salt Lake City of their extraterritorial jurisdiction of the watershed. The push for a town with it’s own land use authority up Big Cottonwood is merely a new chapter in a larger effort to weaken environmental protection and get rid of ordinances that slow down or stop canyon development.

Questionable affiliations:

Another immediate red flag is that, according to the May 2017 Big Cottonwood Canyon Association meeting agenda, the gathering of materials to prepare for the feasibility study request are being conducted by former state legislator Justin Miller. You may remember former Rep. Miller who had to step down from his state legislative seat after pleading guilty to embezzling campaign funds from Mayor Ben McAdams. You can read the Tribune story about Miller stepping down here. Mr. Miller has also been working with an individual who has had long standing development plans for part of the incorporated area.

If you or someone you know has property up Big Cottonwood DO NOT sign the feasibility study waiver. If you have already signed the waiver please contact the organizers and ask that your signature be removed and contact the Lt Governor’s office to be certain your name is removed from the petition.

If you have further questions about the incorporation effort please contact Carl or Rob at Save Our Canyons – (801) 363-7283

The future of the health and beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon is at stake with this effort.

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