DWR Informs County about Possible Property Purchase
|The fireplace and benches in the old Kenilworth park are in disrepair. Residents, with the help of a gas exploration company, want to revamp the park and approached the commission last Wednesday about the property.|
In the last few years, local governments throughout the west have become more sensitive about public agencies purchasing private land within county boundaries.
The reasoning behind their sensitivity is twofold.
One underlying factor is conservation easements may be placed on the land, making it virtually undevelopable for perpetuity. Second, land purchased by government agencies removes the property from county tax rolls.
Along with other counties, Carbon has established master plans for dealing with situations like the one that came up during a regular county commission meeting on Feb.2.
Chris Colt from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources approached the commissioners about a possible land purchase by the agency next to the Gordon Creek Wildlife Management Area from a private citizen.
"I have come here to get input into this possible purchase and to take some comments back to our resource council," explained Colt. "The idea of purchasing this land was brought to us by the owner. We are presently just looking into it and have gone no further."
Deputy zoning administrator Gayla Williams pointed out that the local master plan was set up so Carbon government would absorb no net loss of private lands in the county. Basically the commisioners want the right to sit down with landowners before sales to public agencies take place.
"We just recently purchased 640 acres near Wattis for the new shooting range," pointed out Commissioner Bill Krompel. "We want to look at these purchases on a case by case basis. We believe there needs to be an education process for all involved in any such action."
With the purchase of the gun range property, Commissioner Steve Burge said the county has been concerned about looking "hypocritical" regarding the transition from private to public property when it came to other government agencies.
Colt agreed that it was a good idea for the sides to discuss the situation, noting that the DWR wanted the possibility of the purchase "on the record" with the county.
In an unrelated matter of business, Kenilworth resident Bill Hefner approached the commission about renovating the corner park at the entrance of the town.
Hefner and other residents have been working with a gas exploration company that met with them last fall about putting wells near the town.
In trade, the company told the residents it was willing to look at putting money into the community.
The company asked the residents to come up with a priority list of projects.
"What we did is create a wish list for the community and put them in a letter to the company," said Hefner. "Of course, we also prioritized the things we were considering and they recognized out priorities. One of the main ones was to revitalize the park."
Hefner said he started researching to find out who had the title to the park because nothing could be done without the owner's permission.
"I went to the county recorder's office and found that the park is owned by the county and now we would like permission to do some development on that park," said Hefner."The first step the company has suggested is to hire a landscape architect to look at it and come up with some ideas."
|A map of the Gordon Creek area shows the private property that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is currently considering to purchase. The property is located a short distance west of the Wildcat coal loadout. DWR informed the commission about the possible purchase last Wednesday.|
Hefner said he had no idea what the property lines were or how much land was involved.
Williams indicated she learned about the possible project and pulled the records. The records show there are 1.3 acres.
"Interestingly, the road that goes into Kenilworth runs right through the property, so there is some on both sides of the road," she stated.
Hefner said that one of the other plans the community has is to put up a sign welcoming people to the town.
"Maybe if that property is on the other side of the road we could put the sign up there," he speculated.
The commission had some questions and were somewhat surprised that the county owned the park. And they also brought up the perennial concern of that once a park is in place, who will take care of it.
"The special service district (Carbon Recreation and Transportation Special Service District) has been helping to redevelop the park in Spring Glen," said Krompel. "We have been using personnel from the golf course to help with some of the major stuff with that, and that is a possibility for this too, but maintenance of a park is always a problem. The county has no parks department."
Some discussion ranged on about the maintenance and Hefner suggested that maybe the residents could get together and take care of it.
At that point Burge suggested that county engineer Evan Hansen be asked to survey the plot of land so that the county and the residents can tell what they are actually dealing with before any kinds of decisions are made about what to do.
The commission also held two public hearings, one on a zone change and the other on a conditional use permit, for six newly proposed gas wells in the Whitmore Park area for the JW Operating Company.
"All these wells will be on private property," Larry Johnson a representative for the company told the commission. "The company will be using horizontal drilling to get to the resources for these wells because the terrain there doesn't allow for direct drilling."
Johnson also told the commission that JW Operating has owned the mineral leases for drilling there for a long time and has been told that if they don't start to make them active the leases could be rescinded by the federal government. He also said that if these wells are productive there is the potential to put in more wells in the area.
During the review and recommendation stage in the county planning commission some land owners in the area had pointed out that the gates and many of the cattle grates in the area were either subpar or were in poor condition. At the time Johnson had agreed the company would work on some of those to improve them.
"We have been planning to go out there and look at those but the weather and the muddy roads have kept us from doing so, but we will get out there evaluate it," said Johnson.
During the public hearings only two people stood up and had any comments.
Colt, who had been there for the earlier agenda item had some comments about wildlife impacts in the area by the well development.
"Basically what I want to bring attention to are the impacts on the sage grouse" said Colt. "One example of some significant impacts is in one place where a road runs right through a mating ground. JW Operating has been working with us to limit the travel on that road to the times that will affect them the least."
Colt pointed out that since the operations will be on private ground there is no mitigation required, but that any help the DWR could get on the project would be helpful.
A landowner in the area, Sue Critchlow, also asked what the wells would do to property values.
Officials in the room felt that it would do little to property values in the short run but the change from the Wastershed (WS) zone to Mountain Range (MR) zone would certainly give the landowners more flexibility with their property in the area, because the WS zoning is much more restrictive.
That brought up some questions about watershed protection, but Williams pointed out that the planning commission had reviewed that and had found no problems in the area other than some sedimentation problems which were being dealt with in the conditional use permit.
The commission then approved both the zoning and the conditional use permit.