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SPEAKERS PRAISE WASATCH CANYONS MASTER PLAN AT HEARING

The Salt Lake County Planning Commission is expected to make a recommendation within two weeks on the fate of the Wasatch Canyons Master Plan.

Following that recommendation and any revisions requested by the Planning Commission, county commissioners will hold a final hearing and adoption vote, possibly next month, on the plan - a product of 18 months of work by county planners, consultants and volunteer advisory committees.A smaller turnout and less heat marked a Monday public hearing where Planning Commission members heard comments on the latest master plan draft.

Written comments are being accepted through Thursday noon at the Salt Lake County Planning Division, #N3700, 2001 S. State.

About 200 people attended this hearing, compared with an audience twice that size at a hearing last summer on an earlier version of plan.

Previous hearings have provided a forum for the ski industry and environmentalists to lock horns over the future of the canyons. But the two sides were surprisingly conciliatory Monday.

Speakers generally commended the plan as a sound compromise, with mild criticism from some environmental groups contending the plan is too vague and should be expanded to cover a larger area.

Environmentalists expressed concern that the plan leaves a door open for possible Winter Olympics events at canyon venues, expansion of ski areas and development of the so-called Ski Interconnect linking canyon resorts.

But ski resort representatives committed to abide by the spirit of compromise.

"We believe, in keeping with the language of today, we can have a kinder, friendlier canyon for all the people," said Snowbird resort representative John Hamilton. "We won't impinge on the rights of anybody."

When adopted, the plan will guide the allocation of recreational, commercial and residential uses for the next 20 years in seven canyons: City Creek, Red Butte, Millcreek, Emigration, Parleys, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood.

The plan's framers hope to provide the public with opportunities to enjoy the canyons through a variety of activities without harming the environment.

Salt Lake County has primary land-use planning jurisdiction in the canyons but shares other management responsibilities with Salt Lake City, the U.S. Forest Service, the City-County Board of Health and the town of Alta.

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(Additional information)

Highlights of proposal:

- Approvals for Olympic events in canyons would be contingent on the specific event.

- Development of a year-round transportation system, possibly including a Ski Interconnect linking resorts, to safely move large numbers of people in and out of Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.

- Ski areas may increase their skiers-at-one-time capacities within existing resort boundaries as allowed by the 1985 Forest Service management plan.

- Expansion of ski resorts onto adjacent private land would not generally be allowed but may be permitted under certain circumstances.

- Maintaining water quality is the plan's dominant consideration.

- A coordinating committee should be established by entities with canyon jurisdiction to improve public awareness of canyon issues.

- Jurisdictional entities should cooperate on the purchase of private, undeveloped properties to protect Salt Lake City watersheds and access to public lands.

- Future commercial development in the canyons, including condominiums, will be limited to the immediate areas of existing ski resorts and commercial zones.

- Private vehicular traffic in canyons should be discouraged during peak-use periods.