Ogden Valley Manifesto 2.0: A warning regarding over-the-top unsustainable development schemes
By Kimbal Wheatley
Dear Neighbors in Ogden Valley,
Thirty years ago I bought property in Ogden Valley and have lived on the South Fork for a couple of decades. I served as chair of our South Fork Township Planning Commission during the run up to the Olympics, and later as a “stakeholder” when the Recreation Element of our General Plan and the Snowbasin Master Plans were developed. These experiences taught me two things. First, growth and development in the Valley is inevitable; we have an attractive place and property rights exist that will triple or quadruple housing units and people in the fairly near future. Second, if we do this right, the Valley will remain an attractive place to live, visit, recreate and invest; everybody wins. But there are also lots of ways to mess this up—especially during a period of rapid development—and most everybody loses if we do.
For the last decade I have led the monthly GEM Committee discussions (Growth Excellence Mandate), a come-one, come-all group of Valley people who attend countless government and private meetings as Valley growth issues emerge. To the GEM folk, growing with excellence means doing what we can to minimize the impact development has on residents while also doing what we can to remain an attractive place to live and visit. We pursue following our General Plan, a roadmap for enhancing what makes the Valley great while minimizing the negative consequences of growth—haphazard development, bankruptcies and overloading our infrastructure. More importantly, our General Plan clearly says we don’t want to lose what we have that makes our Valley a great place to live, recreate, and invest. I don’t think it news to most that our Plan intends to preserve our rural feel of agriculture, open space, dark skies, clean air, and majestic views. And our Plan also intends to retain our appeal to destination recreation visitors, knowing fully that congestion, pollution, and free-for-all development will kill the goose that is now laying our golden eggs. Two simple sentences in the General Plan describe our vision for how we intend to walk this tightrope: “Land uses in Ogden Valley should complement, not overwhelm or compete with, the rural character of the Valley…” and “The Ogden Valley community desires responsible and sustainable growth while conserving the natural and social character of Ogden Valley.” The rest of the Plan provides guidance on how to ensure our vision remains the reality.
It seems like about every ten years a development scheme comes along that would overwhelm us. When previous owners of Powder Mountain proposed building a resort the size of Brigham City on top of the mountain, we fought for a better outcome. We succeeded because Valley residents got involved, learned the facts, and provided input at every opportunity. Back then I published a Manifesto, putting Powder Mountain developers on notice that we expect resort expansion plans to improve the Valley, not diminish it. Since then we have adopted a new General Plan that pretty much says the same thing. We also have improved ordinances and approval processes to support it. Even so, we need to rally and focus our community voice to get the best outcome we can when something like the Nordic Valley mega proposal comes along. This inspired me to develop an Ogden Valley Manifesto 2.0; thanks to everyone who helped in its development.
But first, please try to get your head around the magnitude and against-all-odds ideas of the Nordic expansion proposal that has now been submitted to the Forest Service for review and approval. The plan would leverage Nordic Valley from 140 acres on private land by developing facilities onto some 3,300 acres of roadless National Forest between Nordic Valley and North Ogden. The Nordic Valley Plans for Expansion describes…
1 – …expanding lift capacity from 1,030 to 11,380 guests. This would be more than the guests currently hosted by Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley combined, resulting in a doubling of current users; it would be a resort with roughly the same number of guests Park City/Canyons hosts today.
2 – …expanding parking on the Eden side from 404 vehicles to 3,845. This means an additional 7,700 vehicles a day in and out of the resort on our county roads; compare this to 8,500 vehicles now traversing Ogden Canyon on a weekend winter day.
3 – …expanding snowmaking from 11 million gallons on 31 acres to 223 million gallons on 450 acres. The idea is to pump water from Pineview and “consume” only 28% of what is pumped; the rest returns to Pineview as runoff. Still, consumption at 28% is 191 acre feet.
4 – …expanding from 5,093 to 166,500 square feet of non-housing buildings, expanding from 592 restaurant seating capacity to 12,000, and increasing electricity consumption from 1.5 megawatts to 15.5 megawatts.
5 –….cutting 20+ miles of roads into a roadless section of National Forest to service 13 new lifts and 708 acres of ski runs with snowmaking. Much of this would occur in an area identified in the General Plan as some of our “most visible viewshed.”
6 – …converting our most accessible roadless National Forest, currently managed with watershed priority, into one of Utah’s largest resorts, and certainly Utah’s largest low altitude resort (the highest point being at the level of Snowbird/Alta parking lots).
7 – …allowing a resort larger than Snowbasin without a plan for handling culinary water, water rights, wastewater, runoff water, landslide, snow slide, wildlife, watershed, traffic, or guest housing. Granted, much of this is outside of Forest Service scope, but all will be big deals to the Valley if the project goes forward.
If successful, the proposed expansion of Nordic Valley would about double the number of winter guests we now have across all our resorts on our very busiest days; they estimate about half would come from the Eden side. This project is so massive it could easily overwhelm Ogden Valley, especially when added to thousands more already expected when Snowbasin and Powder Mountain reach their already-approved capacity. With this in mind, we issue this manifesto as guidance to its developers.
Principle 1: Do no harm…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
We expect any expansion of recreation resorts in Ogden Valley to proactively and effectively mitigate adverse impacts on Valley residents and environment. In order to understand and minimize impact, we expect full disclosure of expansion effects on Valley residents and natural assets; in particular, we expect a truthful and complete accounting of how expansion will impact water consumption, wastewater systems, runoff water and drainage, roads, and utilities, as well as landslide risk, snow slide risk, and risk to watersheds. We also expect honesty in how expansion will impact quality of life factors like noise, pollution, view sheds, animal habitat, housing, property values and taxes.
Principle 2: Be faithful to the General Plan…
We expect any expansion of recreation resorts in Ogden Valley to adhere to the vision, goals and principles of the Ogden Valley General Plan. One of our Plan goals supports the expansion of resorts: “…to pursue Valley recreation expansion by working with resort developers.” However, our plan also clearly states what we expect from recreation expansion. Here are a few: “…to reduce the overall amount and impact of future land development in Ogden Valley,” “…to protect the Valley’s sense of openness and rural character,” “…to protect key viewsheds throughout the Valley,” and “…to balance the expansion of recreation areas and facilities with overused and saturated resources to maintain a high-quality recreation experience” (that is, there will be less golden eggs in a congested place).
Principle 3: Play by the rules…
We expect any expansion of recreation resorts to adhere to Weber County planning rules and processes, and any expansion into our National Forest to adhere to Forest Service rules and processes. We expect a fair and thorough execution of the review and approval process without political intervention.
Principle 4: We demand full transparency…
We expect any public investment in expansion of recreation resorts (such as county-backed bonding or Community Development Agencies) to be minimal and to be highly visible to taxpayers, and with fully accounted costs to the public, including externalized costs or subsidies.
Principle 5: Show us the numbers…
Prior to final approval, we expect any expansion of recreation resorts to provide the public with evidence that it is fiscally sound and will result in a quality product that can compete in the national and international recreation markets for the long haul.
These principles reflect our rights as residents and citizens and are backed by federal, state and county law, not to mention common sense. We have a right to follow our General Plan and to enjoy the fruits of the property rights it describes. We have a right to fight for these rights.
Adopting these principles will earn support from Valley residents; ignoring them or strong-arming will create decades of Valley animosity and resistance at every turn. I, for one, prefer the former option.
A few years ago GEM started looking at threats to our air quality and learned the State Department of Air Quality (DAQ) knew nothing of Ogden Valley air quality, nor did they have plans for monitoring or studying it. In GEM discussions air quality kept coming up, so in 2018 Richard Menzies and Kim Wheatley developed some ideas and implemented them. Here is a link to their Valley News article published in the spring of 2018 and following is where the the project now stands.
“Purple Air Monitors” are now in place at key locations throughout the Valley. This network of monitors is now reporting particulate 2.5 readings (the harmful small particulates) every 15 minutes to the web. Now everyone can see actual nearby air quality in real time with a single click to the Purple Air Map. So far we have learned our wonderful air goes downhill at the same time inversions and orange/red pollution days are happening on the Wasatch front.
Ken Beck is adding his expertise by developing software to extract Ogden Valley raw data from the Purple Air database. Ken’s intention is to nicely package Ogden Valley air quality data for to hand off to various research groups (as well as satisfying his own curiosity). Richard Menzies has developed a relationship with WSU faculty whereby Ken’s air quality data extractions will feed into student and faculty research. In a few years we should have a much better understanding how air quality in the Valley works.
If you decide to put a Purple Air Monitor on your house, please let us know so we can add you to the club.
Here is some more…for the nerdy among us.
The National Weather Service publishes current information about weather conditions that influence our air quality “The Clearing Index is an Air Quality/Smoke Dispersal Index used to regulate open burning and as input for other air quality decisions throughout Utah. The Clearing Index is defined as the Mixing Depth (depth of the mixed layer in 100s of feet above ground level) multiplied by the Transport Wind (average wind in the mixed layer in knots). Clearing Index values below 500 are considered poor ventilation and open burning is restricted under these conditions. Any Clearing Index values above 1000 are considered excellent ventilation and are referred to as 1000+. Data for the Clearing Index on these web pages..”
On their pages they have our Valley is basin: AQB3 – Mountain Valleys above 6500′ ASI. However, they also lump us in with the Wasatch Front side of Weber County into Air shed #5; Morgan County is also in Air shed #5. Look on the Clearing Index by Air shed tab to see how this all works: the table shows the Clearing Index (CI) for today and the two-day forecast. Readings below 500 mean pollution will be accumulating rapidly in the Valley and readings above 1000 mean pollution will blow out. The next column is the “Mixed Layer Depth” (MH), an atmospheric condition that tends to trap particulates in air sheds when at lower elevation and releasing them at higher elevations, then combined with wind speeds. In a nutshell, low winds and low ceiling means rapid buildup of pollutants.
Link to Standard Examiner article Health board clouds inquiry into diesel emissions testing, May 9, 2015
Diesel Information – particulate pollution. Presentation from the Weber Morgan Health Dept, April, 2015
Air Quality in Ogden Valley 8-12-14 – a summary of the first air quality test in the Valley
December 2018 is the opening of the completely new Maverick store, interesting because it’s design and appearance were tested against the new General Plan. If fact, our Planning Commission sent their proposal back twice, each time requesting better fit with the General Plan.
Because of our Dark Skies ordinance, lighting is much more subdued than the usual Maverick. Because of our Signs ordinance, signage is also much subdued. When landscaping appears in spring, we will see an integrated trail and outdoor seating.
This is a pretty good example of how our General Plan is shaping ordinances to create the kind of community we want.
And kudos to the Maverick folk who chose to work with us, rather than against us. A win-win for all.
2018 Nordic Valley expansion plans are gigantic
June 2018 Nordic Valley owners unveiled their plans to expand Nordic Valley from 140 acres on private land by developing facilities on some 3,300 acres of roadless National Forest between Nordic Valley and North Ogden. For the “greater good”, the Nordic Valley Plans for Expansion was submitted Forest Service as a request for “special use” December 2018. Take a few minutes to digest the magnitude of the Nordic expansion proposal that intends…
(1) …converting our most accessible roadless National Forest, currently managed with watershed priority, into one of Utah’s largest resorts, and certainly Utah’s largest low altitude resort (the highest point being at the level of Snowbird and Alta parking lots). Check out this science-based analysis of what climate warming is likely to do.
(2) …expanding lift capacity from 1,030 to 11,380 guests (+1000%). This would be more than the guests currently hosted by Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Nordic Valley combined…a doubling of current users; it would be a resort with roughly the same number of guests Park City/Canyons hosts today.
(3) …expanding parking from 404 vehicles on the Eden side to 3,845 (+900%). This means an additional 7700 vehicles a day on our roads; compare this to 8500 vehicles now traversing Ogden Canyon on a weekend winter day (2017 data) or 14,200 total vehicles per day in and out of the Valley (2017 data).
(4) …expanding snowmaking from 11 million gallons on 31 acres to 223 million gallons on 450 acres (+1900%). The idea is to pump water from Pineview and “consume” 28% of what they pump (consuming 191 acre feet ; +466% consumption).
(5) …expanding from 5093 to 166,500 square feet of non-housing buildings (+3200%), expanding from 592 restaurant seating capacity to twelve thousand (+1900%), most of it on-mountain, and increasing electricity consumption from 1.5 megawatts to 15.5 megawatts (+900%),
(6)….cut 20+ miles of roads into a roadless section of National Forest to service 13 new lifts 708 acres of ski runs and snowmaking equipment. Much of this would occur in an area identified in the General Plan as some of our “most visible viewshed”.
(7)…allow a resort larger than Snowbasin without a plan for handling culinary water, wastewater, runoff water, landslide, wildlife, watershed, traffic, or guest housing. Apparently this comes later.
If successful, the expanded Nordic Valley would about double the number of winter guests we now have across all our resorts on our very busiest days…they estimate about half would come from the Eden side.
This project is so massive it could easily overwhelm Ogden Valley.
The Ogden Valley Land Trust is our lead organization for preserving open space through conservation easements. Anyone interested in preserving farm land, wildlife habitats, rivers and streams and open space should support the Land Trust.
Steve Clarke sent a note to the County Commissioners containing this about open space in the Valley. ( 5/15/2015)
Open Space is crucial… to our personal well-being, our economy, and our society. Your support of the current General Plan effort for the Ogden Valley is greatly appreciated and is moving along well, with unusual amounts of citizen participation. Open Space is an important part of that planning. Thank You!
I recommend we start now to manage and procure open space. I was impressed by the Salt Lake County open space team when they presented to the combined Ogden Valley and West Weber Planning Commissions some time ago. I think we should follow their lead. They saw the need, bonded, and managed procurement for the County as a whole.
Need: I’m aware Ogden City has been building an open space plan; the unincorporated areas of Weber County could do the same.
Bonding: I favor a county wide bond with the marketing of the bond to be done by groups like Ogden Valley Land Trust.
Management: I favor a county run open space management team and process to prioritize and procure land. The role of the Ogden Valley Land Trust and other similar groups in the County could be negotiated.
Thanks for your leadership! Stephen D. Clarke
Planning Commission recommends approval of rezoning to support a commercial core.
At the July 2015 meeting of the OVPC, Wolf Creek’s request to rezone was recommended to the County Commission for approval. Key concepts include:
- John Lewis and his team worked extensively with the community to propose what the residents wanted. Many showed up in support and none showed up in opposition.
- The intention of the rezone is to support a commercial core for the resort and in the area. It will include a mix of residential, retail, hotel, and a club house for the golf course combined with a community center for residents and visitors.
- The commercial area zone will be expanded into an open space area (zone O-1) where the driving range is. All of the expansion is to support a club house/community center and the parking it will need. The driving range will be moved to the north.
- An exchange of other residential zone means there is no net loss in open space or O-1 zoning.
- Part of the golf course will be rezoned from residential to open space.
The Wolf Creek Resort development plan continues to progress. http://www.co.weber.ut.us/