County pondering easement request
During a pre-New Year's public meeting, Carbon commissioners pondered the potential effects of supporting a conservation easement request on property near Clear Creek .
"At one point, the owner was thinking about subdividing the area into 40 acre lots and building there," pointed out county building and zoning director Dave Levanger.
"Right now, I think it is taxed as a green belt area. But if it were developed, it would provide much more in taxes to the county. With a conservation easement, I doubt the taxes would amount to more than the green belt - in fact, probably less," added Levanger.
The request was not the first time the question of conservation easements has come before the commission.
But the 3,000 acres involved in the easement would be the largest and, considering the possibility of development, could impact any action in the future.
The owner of the property, David Cunningham, is a Utah County resident and for various reasons could not attend the meeting. Cunningham apparently wants to put the easement on the property, with the aid of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
According to the organi-zation's website, the mission of the foundation is to ensure the future of elk, wildlife and the animals' habitat.
The site indicates that the organizations is committed to conserving, restoring and enhancing natural habitats, promoting the sound management of wild, free-ranging elk, which may be hunted or otherwise enjoyed.
The site also states that the organization's goals are to foster cooperation among federal, state and private organizations and individuals in wildlife management and habitat conservation and to educate members and the public about habitat conservation, the value of hunting, hunting ethics and wildlife management.
"The way it is set up the easement requires the support of the commission to put the easement on the land," explained Commissioner Mike Milovich.
But the other commissioners appeared reluctant to support the move at the time because they felt that possibly Cunningham wasn't aware of the impacts of conservation easements on not only the county but on his land.
"We are somewhat surprised by this," stated Commissioner Chair Steve Burge. "Based on some of the information we have about these kinds of easements I think we need to consider this situation carefully."
Burge was referring to a movement in many counties to at least take hard looks at such easements, because of their future impact not only on local tax bases and private property rights on the particular segment involved in the future, but also surrounding properties in the area in the long run.
"I believe we have a responsibility to inform him of the possible problems it presents," noted Commissioner Bill Krompel. "I think we need to do an analysis on the tax situation and do what would be in the best interests of the county,"
Levanger pointed out that the new master plan for the county did include provisions that officials should discuss possible conservation easements with any land owners that might wish to place them on their property.
The commission decided to table the item and put it on their next agenda, pending a discussion with the owner.
On another issue the commission was prepared to deal with a representative from Scofield on a contract concerning a fire protection contract. Larry Stallings, the fire chief in Scofield, presented himself to do so as he did a few weeks ago, this time with documentation stating that he could negotiate for the contract. But the county had received other contacts that he was not authorized.
"We had a conversation with the mayor of your town today and he told us that you did not have the authority to negotiate with the county," stated county attorney Gene Strate.
Stallings presented minutes from a Scofield town council meeting that seemed to indicate he did have that authority however. Milovich commented that the county is in a strange situation because "we continue to get conflicting statements" about the circumstances.
"I can't figure out where this is coming from," said Stallings, obviously befuddled by the predicament. "What I am asking for is the county to buy some equipment for us in trade for the fire contract. I just can't figure out what is going on here. I guess they just need to get someone else to be the fire chief in Scofield."
Commissioners explained that the reason for the contract was to improve response time in Pleasant Valley, because it takes the Helper fire department 40 minutes to respond due to their distance from the area. Stallings continued to talk with them about the issue, but it was obvious nothing was going to be done on the situation that evening anyway.
"The fact is, even if you could negotiate with us, any agreement would have to be approved by your city council anyway," Krompel told the fire chief.
The commission briefly discussed the list of equipment Stallings had submitted to them and then put off any decision until a meeting could be arranged between town officials and the county.
In other business the commission reappointed Robert Welch and Richard Tatton to the county planning commission and also reappointed Nick Sampinos for a position on the Carbon Water Conservancy Board.
Another position that is open on that board will be considered at the next meeting of the commission. So far the county has only received one application for that appointment.