HOOPER — Mayor Dale Fowers made his first-ever foray earlier this year to Fremont Island, part of the Weber County city though it sits in the Great Salt Lake.
To say the experience has stuck would be an understatement. The view of the lake and the mainland from the isolated island, he said, was astounding.
“I would go out there again just to have that view,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable how blue the water looks.”
Whether he’s able to make it out there again remains to be seen. But it seems he won’t have to worry about the future of the natural beauty of the island, previously eyed as the site of a potential housing development of up to 12,000 units. The island has a new owner, the Palladium Foundation of Salt Lake City, headed by conservationist Jennifer Speers, and the broker who helped negotiate the sale says the buyer’s aim is to keep the land as is.
The new owner, a nonprofit organization, “plans to preserve the island in its natural state for future generations,” the Land Advisors Organization said in a statement Thursday announcing the transaction. Land Advisors Organization, managed by Zach Hartman, served as broker for the deal.
Hartman wouldn’t disclose the terms of the sale or name the new owner, though it’s identified in online Weber County property records as the Palladium Foundation. But he vouched for the entity’s environmental credentials. “They will underdevelop or preserve the project,” Hartman said Friday.
Palladium Foundation reps couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
And Hartman noted that the successful buyer beat out other, higher offers. An affiliate of the Woods Cross-based Diesel Brothers also had expressed interest in the island and Hartman said the seller “probably left money on the table” in deciding to go with the Palladium Foundation. Bit Wealth, managed by Gavin Dickson of Salt Lake City, had owned the property and a Diesel Brothers affiliate had a minority stake in the entity.
County property records put the market value of Fremont Island at $882,912.
‘MASTER-PLANNED COMMUNITY’Fremont Island was the focus of a Hooper City Council work session last July, when Hartman addressed the body about its development potential. One of the developers addressing the city officials at the time said they were contemplating a development of 10,000 to 12,000 housing units on the island with two causeways connecting it to the mainland. Hartman said housing units, a mix of homes and apartments, would likely range in price from $250,000 to $1.1 million, with most in the $300,000-$500,000 range.
Likewise, in talking Friday with the Standard-Examiner, Hartman touted the land’s development potential. Space for new housing is needed along the Wasatch Front and the lay of the land on Fremont Island lends itself to housing development. The earlier development plans, he said, called for “an amazing master-planned community.”
But Hartman also noted the natural beauty of the island, and such considerations ultimately won out. “You spend some time out there and it’s hard to want to develop,” Hartman said.
The Land Advisors Organization statement said the island measures 4,133 acres and is the third biggest in the Great Salt Lake after Stansbury and Antelope islands. That measurement comes from an engineer’s survey. County property records, meantime, put the size of Fremont Island at 2,943 acres.
The Palladium Foundation has a history of acquiring and protecting land. The Form 990-PF it filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2017, the latest available online, states that it spent $672,924 that year on land protection and conservation efforts on land it owns in Utah and New York. The form also said it also provided $11.29 million in grants and contributions for varied land preservation initiatives around Utah, including the Moab and Park City areas.
Speers, who grew up in New York, is on the Board of Trustees of the Durango, Colorado-based Conservation Lands Foundation, a conservation group. Her biography on the group’s website says she’s involved in land stewardship initiatives along the Colorado River in Moab and efforts to protect the Great Salt Lake wetlands. “Jennifer came to Utah to attend the University of Utah and to ski and has remained ever since,” the biography reads.
What exactly comes next for Fremont Island remains to be seen. It’s not easy to get to, accessible via an “exposed sand bar” when the Great Salt Lake water level falls below 4,194 feet in elevation, according to the Land Advisors Organization statement.
Whatever the case, Fowers, the Hooper mayor, thinks it has tourism potential, though probably nothing on par with Antelope Island, home to a state park.
“It is a beautiful view,” Fowers said. “It is as beautiful a view over the lake as there would be anywhere.”