Brighton Incorporation Update
As you recall, there’s an effort afoot to incorporate the upper half of Big Cottonwood Canyon into a new town of Brighton. Save Our Canyons has been concerned about this proposal since it was first declared.
Looking to incorporate as a town was a well-intentioned effort to find solutions to issues like overcrowding, trail maintenance, inadequate toilets, and growing transportation conflicts. But the feasibility study released earlier this summer made a few things clear: Incorporation will raise taxes — disproportionately impacting secondary homeowners, disenfranchise a majority of property owners who will no longer be able to vote on issues impacting their canyon property, and likely empower speculators and developers hoping to weaken the environmental and watershed protections responsible for keeping them at bay.
The process has been riddled with a minefield of errors, missteps, and miscommunications. The feasibility study released earlier this summer was pulled after it was found to have significant inaccuracies and now another feasibility study is underway.
Here are the concerns Save Our Canyons and our supporters in the canyon have raised about the incorporation effort.
Land Use: Save Our Canyon’s most serious concern — giving land use authority to the new town of Brighton could open this area up for future development and changes to existing land use protections. Who’s to say that years from now a new company, say Vail or someone similarly hungry for increased development, won’t purchase Brighton and stack a future town council with cronies willing to give them whatever they want in terms of development and growth. It may sound far off now, but it’s not. Things change, councilmembers are replaced, new companies move in and new opportunities for making money eventually become desirable — just see the article about the history of Grizzly Gulch also in this newsletter if you don’t believe us.
Disenfranchisement and the Future of the Canyons: As part of unincorporated Salt Lake County all property owners, both primary and secondary, can vote on issues impacting the canyons and have recourse to elected officials representing them on canyon issues and canyon property taxes. Should Brighton incorporate this will change substantially. According to the study, only 20 percent of canyon property owners are registered to vote in the canyons, about 202 registered voters. 20 percent of the property owners, 202 primary residents who are registered to vote, will decide whether incorporation occurs. Should they vote to incorporate only these same residents will decide all future town issues such as taxes, services, and quite possibly — land use!
Taxes: Proponents stated in August 2017 Petition Edition newsletter that it wouldn’t be necessary to raise taxes to support the town, “Neither the petition nor incorporation will raise or lower taxes, but becoming a town could offer greater control over how some taxes are spent.” Yet, the earlier version of the feasibility study found that taxes would be raised significantly for residents and nearly double for secondary homeowners.
Services: Services provided to residents in Big Cottonwood Canyon such as fire and police protection are heavily subsidized by those of us outside the canyons. Additionally, the Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City have dedicated about $1 million dollars in the last year to improving toilets and trails in Big Cottonwood over the past year. This doesn’t include the $3.5 million the same entities spent protecting open space at the top of Big Cottonwood last summer with the purchase of Bonanza Flat.