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6th-graders speak out against Snowbird plans

Snowbird's proposed mega-building atop Hidden Peak will turn Little Cottonwood Canyon into a suburb, said Camey Yeh.

Yeh and her sixth-grade classmates from Bennion Elementary School urged Salt Lake County commissioners Wednesday to oppose a zone change that would allow Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort to build its 50,000-square-foot building."We oppose this," said Camey. "It's bad for the mountains and ruins the view for everyone."

Commissioners weren't ready to make a decision Wednesday, so, by a vote of 2-1, they continued the public hearing to May 3.

"There are too many unknowns," Commissioner Mary Callaghan said. But Commissioner Brent Overson was willing to approve it contingent on getting answers to legal questions surrounding the county boundary.

Postponing a decision was precisely what opponents wanted.

Joyce Maughan, an attorney representing Wild Utah Forest Campaign, argued that a decision is premature due to the several appeals pending over the U.S. Forest Service's approval of Snowbird's master plan. Besides Wild Utah Forest Campaign, Save Our Canyons and other environmental groups, Snowbird has filed an appeal over the Forest Service decision.

Included in that approval was a scaled-back Hidden Peak building, improving trails and upgrading ski lifts and a new day lodge at the bottom of the 3,000-acre resort. Most of the proposed building would be on federal land managed by the Wasatch National Forest. But two acres lies on private property in Salt Lake County. A zone change is needed for that portion.

Maughan said it's not known exactly where the boundary is located. "The county line hasn't been determined because of an unclear legal description," she added.

But Snowbird officials say the property has been surveyed. A zone change is simply needed to allow operators more flexibility in designing the facility.

Snowbird had won county Planning Commission approval in January. A county conditional-use permit would still be needed.

What concerned many opponents is the fact that a huge building would be visible atop a mountain.

"I'm a skier and I enjoy skiing at all the canyon resorts," said Barry Moore. At Snowbird, the amenities are quite suitable, he added. "Bigger is not always better."

Liz McCoy of Great Old Broads for Wilderness agreed.

"We don't need further creature comforts at a ski resort," she said.

To Yeh a big building on a mountain ridge just doesn't make sense.

People go to the mountain to escape city life, she said. "Would it be escaping city life with a hotel atop a mountain?"