EDEN -- The soon-to-be owner of Powder Mountain only wants to change the world.
And at the same time, keep the rustic ski resort's "cool and funky" feel.
"We'd like to maintain that vibe," said Thayer Walker, the "chief reconnaissance officer" of the Summit Group, which will later this month finalize its $40 million purchase of Powder Mountain.
Lofty as those aspirations are, Ogden Valley residents remain skeptical. They're just waiting to see what comes next.
"We hope they can do what they say they're going to do," said Steve Clarke, an Eden resident and chairman of the Growth with Excellence Mandate -- or GEM -- a citizens' group focusing on development.
"You might be a great developer, but we don't know that," is valley resident Allexis Owen's message. "What you're doing right now will show us if we can trust you."
Weber County has decided to act on the side of trust, with commissioners last week approving a $24 million bond -- a loan, in effect -- that will first build what is the foundation of any development: an infrastructure of water, sewer and roads.
This may be the first major development project for Summit Group, a collective of young, passionate partners that hosts the Summit Series, conferences celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and good works. Making up for that lack of shovel-in-the-ground experience, however, is an idealism-fueled business ethic -- along with lots of investor backing.
"We believe that what's good for business should be good for the world," Walker said.
Summit team members see in Powder Mountain more than a business. Plans call for an "epicenter of innovation," according to its website. Walker expands on that: "We see an opportunity not only to help maintain the culture and heritage of this mountain, but to add cool components to it that will have a positive effect on the county, the state and the world as a whole."
And, he pledges, Powder Mountain will remain open to the public.
"Pretty much, the mountain as it currently exists will remain very familiar," Walker said.
Summit's first sally will be an initial development of a village "tucked away" among trees and out of sight, Walker said. The proposed 154 dwellings range from full-size homes to "nest units" of between 200 and 400 square feet. A public hearing -- scheduled today -- before the Weber County Commission will give residents an opportunity to see and comment on the plans.
Not that commissioners haven't already heard an earful. The response from valley residents has been "all over the board," said Weber County Commissioner Jan Zogmaister. "It's run the full gamut."
That's because "we've been through this before," said Shanna Francis, longtime Eden resident and editor of the Ogden Valley News. "There's a history of negative things playing out with a lot of developers."
She's talking about valley residents' often rocky relationship with companies set on making sweeping changes.
For instance, Western American Holdings, the company that is now finalizing negotiations with Summit, alarmed the valley with plans to build golf courses and up to 5,000 residences. When it ran into the obstacle of public opinion, it tried to incorporate its own town, dubbed "Powderville" by locals, to write its own zoning laws.
Previous developers, Francis said, "weren't invested in the community. They tried to get the highest growth density they could. To me, that all played out in a bad way. If you compare with that, you would think Summit is a lot better."
GEM's Clarke agrees, saying, "This group seems to be principled, seems to be doing good things."
And Summit is working to establish itself as a good neighbor in the valley. Some 40 employees own or rent in the valley, using nearly 20 homes. It's also the largest renter of commercial space in the valley, Clarke said, with four office and storage spaces.
Its outreach started with door-to-door visits in the Ogden Valley. These days, it's asking residents to help determine the end use of its recent purchase of 1,480 acres in the Wolf Creek area. The land was originally pegged for a golf course, Walker said.
"But does anyone really feel we need a second golf course?" he said. "We don't, but we would like to know what the community thinks."
In addition, Walker said, Summit also has been approached by people who would like to see the Ogden Valley Balloon Festival revived on a 70-acre Summit purchase that includes the iconic "Wolf Barn." Summit is also working to place other acreage it has purchased under conservancy restraints that limit potential development.
"Anytime you come into a community like this, you take it slow and get to know people, and realize it happens one cup of coffee at a time," said Walker.
One issue that highlights Summit's outreach efforts is the result of a dustup among residents of Stringtown Road. Residents were concerned about increased traffic caused by Summit team members' use of a large home on the street as a gathering place. The many children walking to Valley Elementary School, also on the street, have to contend with large trucks delivering food and transport vans, "which can run at a frequency of every five minutes until the early morning hours," said Owen, who lives on the street.
Owen and others worried that the house, containing three kitchens and six massage rooms, was being run as a business; our "ultimate fear," she said, is that the county will grant conditional-use, making the home a "club house."
That concern prompted her to start an online petition urging the Weber County Commission to disapprove any zoning change requests on the rural road.
Summit executives reacted quickly, hosting a question-and-answer meeting for local residents and pledging to reduce their use of the road.
"For the most part, they were respectful and listened to the criticism the community had," said Owen.
"They're trying to respond to things they hear from the community," added Clarke. "And we applaud them for that openness."
One thing that hasn't been controversial is the bond approved by commissioners. The bond will be paid back at a rate of $1.6 million a year by Summit, the only landowner to actually be assessed.
"It's a defined, small area," Zogmaister said of the assessment area. There will be no cost to county residents, she said.
The opinionated online Ogden Valley Forum seems to agree, writing: "We regard this bond measure as benign to Weber County taxpayer interests."
As soon as snow melts, said Weber Planner Sean Wilkinson, construction will begin on a new road from the main Powder Mountain parking lot to the proposed development. The road will travel past the Hidden Lake lift and lodge, for the most part following a current dirt road.
Once the road is completed, new water and sewer lines will be installed, as well as a 400,000-gallon water tank. Wilkinson said Summit will drill a well to supply culinary water. Bond funds will be used for continued maintenance of the area.
So far, Clarke likes what he sees.
"They are attempting to help the valley remain a rural environment. ... They are trying to preserve the mountain in its natural state as much as possible," he said. "They're trying to do things that make people who live here happy."