Morgan commission gives preliminary approval to ski resort’s first subdivision
Image supplied, Morgan County Commission
MORGAN — The Morgan County Commission unanimously approved a preliminary plat for the first subdivision in the Wasatch Peaks Ranch ski and golf resort on Tuesday, but while the project is breezing through the county process, a related legal fight over a proposed voter referendum continues to threaten the development.
An attorney for a group of five residents pushing the referendum said in an interview earlier Tuesday, “The developer is working on the site at his own risk.” The attorney, M. Darin Hammond of Ogden, filed a motion in 2nd District Court on Oct. 19 asking Judge Noel Hyde to overturn the county clerk’s rejection of the referendum application.
“We expect the judge will grant our motion because there was no reasonable basis for denying my clients the right to have their petition heard by the voters of Morgan County,” Hammond said.
The referendum effort arose soon after the Morgan County Council — the body in charge before the county switched to the commission form of government later — on Oct. 30, 2019, adopted an ordinance creating a resort special district and establishing a development agreement with Wasatch Peaks Ranch.
Whitney Croft, Robert Bohman, Brandon Peterson, Shelley Paige and David Pike filed a referendum petition application on Nov. 6, 2019, but County Clerk Stacy Netz Clark on Nov. 21 rejected it, saying they did not adequately certify their residency and did not attach a copy of the disputed ordinance.
Image supplied, Morgan County Commission
The five sued the county three weeks later, saying the rejection was improper. And Wasatch Peaks entered the case as an intervenor. Hyde dismissed the suit, ruling the district court did not have jurisdiction on the suit. But the Utah Supreme Court in August this year overturned that result, sending the case back to Hyde to resolve the original matter.
Wasatch Peaks has made additional arguments against the referendum, arguing it also was submitted after the deadline and that there were problems with the residents’ notarization of their residency attestations. Hammond’s motion said the district court must decide the issue based only on the reasons cited by the county clerk, and the notary and timeliness issues were not cited.
The county and Wasatch Peaks have not yet responded in court to the residents’ motion. After they do, Hyde may rule on the case or schedule further arguments.
Wasatch Peaks began construction on infrastructure for the resort soon after the county approved the project in 2019. The developer’s managing director, Ed Schultz, has said Wasatch Peaks is following all county ordinances and is confident about the project. He also has extolled the development’s anticipated addition to the county’s tax base and communities.
County planning director Lance Evans presented the subdivision plat to commissioners Tuesday afternoon, saying the action in favor of the 483-acre, 50-lot area would allow Wasatch Peaks to begin selling the lots to future resort residents.
Schultz followed with brief remarks, assuring the commission the ordinance was being followed to the letter and the developer cooperated with changes to the plat application made during the planning commission process.
Commissioners asked no major questions about the plat and approved it on a voice vote.
Wasatch Peaks, which spans 11,000 acres of Morgan County’s southwest skyline above Peterson, is to include ski runs, golf courses, housing and other resort amenities. The resort is intended for high-end members who will buy in to the exclusive community. County officials say the project will help the local economy and tax base, but the referendum backers say they are worried about environmental and quality of life impacts.
In 2020, Wasatch Peaks sued the five referendum petitioners and a sixth referendum backer for $10 million apiece, alleging conspiracy and illegal business interference, but Hyde dismissed that suit earlier this year.