NORTH OGDEN — Developers behind plans to expand the Nordic Valley ski resort may be in for a scrap with some North Ogden residents leery of proposals to build a 4.3-mile, mountain-crossing gondola between the complex and the city.
About 20 people spoke out on the plans at a North Ogden City Council meeting Tuesday, most expressing opposition and concern about the potential impact on the city. The plans are the focus of another public meeting Nordic Valley is hosting on Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at The Barn at Nordic Valley, 3567 Nordic Valley Way in Eden.
North Ogden “is not a world-renowned resort. It is a bedroom community,” said Chris Heiner, referencing the grand scale of the Nordic Valley plans, which call for expanding the resort from 140 acres to 2,800 acres with 12 new lifts, in addition to the gondola. “Let things stay the way they are.”
Mary Settlemire worries about the future of an equestrian park across the street from her home in eastern North Ogden, the proposed western endpoint for the gondola connecting with the ski resort to the east, over the mountain. Amid speculation about additional development in North Ogden in conjunction with the Nordic Valley expansion — resorts or a convention center, perhaps — she also expressed concern about the loss of open space, echoing many others Tuesday.
“I don’t know what this is going to do where I live, but I don’t want it there,” she said. “I agree we need to keep green space in the community... I want to see some open land once in a while so I can breathe.”
Many others voiced similar reservations — with no one expressing unabashed support — and the response seemed to take James Coleman, chief executive officer of Mountain Capital Partners, owner of Nordic Valley, by surprise. He attended Tuesday’s meeting to address City Council members on his plans and said up until then the majority of feedback had been positive.
He lamented any “heartache” caused by sudden news of plans, which came to public light late last month after Nordic Valley posted a website outlining the broad parameters of the proposal. “It’s very obvious a lot of people feel this got sprung on them,” he said.
Publication of the website aimed to start the public conversation on the plans, he said, noting another meeting slated for Aug. 14 in North Ogden to let the public sound off. The next step after that would be approaching the U.S. Forest Service, manager of much of the land at the center of the Nordic Valley plans, for permission to move forward, and, if that yields results, getting the necessary permission from North Ogden officials.
“The plan is for this to be a very open process,” Coleman said.
‘A HUGE QUESTION’
Whatever the case, he faced pointed questioning from City Council members. Councilman Phillip Swanson asked Coleman what he thought the benefit of the plans would be to North Ogden.
Additional tax base, Coleman answered, and an enhanced quality of life, which could induce future generations to remain in the city. “These generations, they want a lot of activities. They want to be able to do different things,” he said.
Weber County Commissioner James Ebert said last month that county officials had been previously approached about the notion of letting North Ogden annex the unincorporated area around Nordic Valley as part of the development plans. Swanson queried Coleman on that possibility.
The potential benefit of annexing, Coleman understands, would be the denser residential development that would be possible under North Ogden zoning rules relative to Weber County guidelines, he said.
Improved skiing, however, is the main thrust of the plans, not adding housing around Nordic Valley. “I’m not primarily focused on that. That’s the next step,” he said.
At any rate, Swanson voiced reservations at the possibility of annexing so far from North Ogden’s current city boundaries. He’d be “furious,” he said, if another city attempted to annex land adjacent to North Ogden.
“I think it’s a huge question for me that has to be addressed. I just want it out there, that’s a concern for me,” Swanson said.
Swanson also asked Coleman if hotels or other commercial developments in North Ogden were part of the vision, a point of concern for many Tuesday, worried about overdevelopment.
“I’m certainly open to it,” Coleman said. But it’s not a priority, he continued, and it would be up to city leaders to allow for such development.
Apart from the impact to North Ogden, some residents Tuesday voiced concern about the impact of the plans to Coldwater Canyon, east of North Ogden. The Nordic Valley expansion plans show two proposed ski lifts connecting the canyon to ridges higher up.
“I would like to see it stay as pristine, beautiful canyon,” Rod Barker said.
The prospect of more development and people, if additional resorts or housing accompanied the plans, gave Greg Merrill pause.
Development may be inevitable as the region grows, he said, “but it doesn’t mean we have to just jam people in with a shoehorn.”