Cherry Creek ski resort permit decision postponed by county planning commission

After an hour of public input and discussion at a meeting Thursday, the Cache County Planning Commission postponed making a decision on the Cherry Peak Ski Area master plan conditional use permit.The property in question lies just east of Richmond, Utah. Logan Checketts wants to turn 203 acres of land zoned for forest recreation into a ski resort with four ski lifts, a zip line and a cable tow for a tubing hill. A conditional use permit means that if problems arise in the future, the commission and the property owner would need to work together to mitigate those problems in order for the property owner to keep the permit. The ski resort permit has been on the planning commission’s table for a while now, with commissioners continually postponing the decision due to insufficient information and analysis. The county chambers were packed to capacity Thursday night, with even more residents standing out in the hallway. During public input, several people voiced their support for or concerns about the proposed ski resort.Those for and those against could not agree on what the resort would do to the area’s wildlife.Assistant Attorney General Martin Bushman spoke Thursday representing the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). He said it is hard to put numbers on just how many wild animals will be impacted by the resort.”There are a few things we can say for certain, and that is (the resort) will have somewhat of an impact. There is no way that 800 vehicle trips up and down a road in a day and an operation of 14 hours a day with lights in the night will not impact wintering mule deer and elk,” he said.Others claimed the resort’s activity would disrupt eating and mating patterns of local deer and elk. Checketts commissioned a study done by Stantech Consulting Services, which evaluated whether a ski resort would disrupt the wildlife. A few residents who spoke Thursday said the Stantech study was insufficient. Mike Wolfe, emeritus professor of wildlife science at Utah State University, called the study “superficial,” stating the analysis failed to consider several important aspects, such as how the resort could affect wildlife in surrounding areas. Others voiced support for the resort, saying there is plenty of other property for the wildlife to thrive on. Local farmer Alan Collins said the constitution forbids government from denying a citizen the right to using their property as long as they follow the law. “I think that a private property owner has a right to use his property,” Collins said. “If the DWR, or a neighbor or anybody wants to preserve it for some other use, they can go negotiate an opportunity to buy it. If the seller doesn’t want to sell it, that’s his business so long as he complies with the law.”Richmond’s mayor, Michael Hall, weighed in on the discussion. He said while Richmond City hadn’t taken a stance for or against the ski resort, he did have some concerns. First, he said Richmond’s main water source came from the canyon in question. Damage to that water source would have serious repercussions for Richmond. Second, he said any roads skiers would take to the resort would have to pass through a school crossing zone. The increased car traffic could prove to be dangerous. Third, Hall said since Richmond personnel would be the first to respond to emergency situations, the road up to the resort should have adequate turnouts in order to make it possible for emergency equipment to be taken up the mountain. The commission discussed hiring a third party group to analyze the area and determine what impacts the ski resort could have on wildlife. Commissioners also decided they needed more information before being able to make a decision. Issues that needed to be investigated included the possibility of avalanches caused by skiers, and needing to decide whether the resort or the county would be responsible for snow removal, among other things. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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