Tom Smart, Deseret News
SNYDERVILLE, Summit County — Snyderville residents may have to decide which is more valuable to them — their Park City address or the luxury of having their very own city services.
The Summit County Council is considering a feasibility study about whether to incorporate the Snyderville area as a county township after Eastern Summit Planning Commissioner Tom Clyde made the proposal last week.
County officials say that such a study would hinge on how significantly the change would affect taxes — for residents in Snyderville as well as the remainder of the unincorporated county territory. Under Utah law, a county must “make whole” the losses in revenue incurred when a city becomes incorporated.
“Some argue that the tax rate would be higher because the city would have to pay for its own services,” said County Councilman Chris Robinson. “But there may be tradeoffs. The city may be able to provide (residents) a level of services worth more for their money because it’s closer to the people.”
Clyde believes residents in Snyderville Basin, located about four miles northwest of Park City, may actually see some of their taxes go down. He says the real risk is for unincorporated residents who will be drawing from a much smaller tax base without the help of Snyderville’s many businesses and growing population.
“Of course, the demand for services would also go down,” Clyde said. “It’s hard to say. It’s going to take someone familiar with all the processes and the costs of the several services to study it out.”
It remains to be seen whether the losses in Summit County’s unincorporated tax base would outpace similar losses in required county services, he said. A petition encompassing 10 percent of Snyderville Basin residents asking for a feasibility study would be required in order to put incorporation up for a vote. Residents of the proposed incorporated area would then vote to give the final say.
Robinson wants to at least give the idea some preliminary consideration.
“I’d probably favor, and I think the council would probably favor, creating a steering committee to look at it and then decide whether we want to go further,” Robinson said. “I think it’s worthy of a look.”
Summit County residents used a petition to strike down two proposed tax increases in September. Jacqueline Smith, co-founder of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility in Summit County, said many of them felt they were being asked to foot the bill for services only needed in Park City and Snyderville in an otherwise highly rural county.
More than 7,500 people live in Park City and an additional 8,000 to 10,000 in the area surrounding Snyderville Basin, meaning nearly half of county residents reside in those two areas.
“It makes sense to me that they’d want to get out from the thumb of the county and provide their own services,” Smith said. “Our unincorporated areas are hit the hardest (by tax increases).”
Clyde also believes the county is having difficulty balancing the preferences of its municipalities versus its unincorporated areas. He said it’s a major reason why the county will likely consider incorporating Snyderville despite the lengthy approval process.
“There’s a real struggle trying to serve total opposite needs sometimes,” Clyde said. “It’s the classic urban-rural divide you see everywhere, but I don’t know too many other counties that face a divide quite this extreme.”
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