When Tom and Heidi Smart decided seven years ago to buy a lot and build a house at Pinebrook, they knew a little bit how the pioneers must have felt when they loaded up the wagons and headed out West.

True, the 1,435-acre Summit County development was only a 25-minute drive through Parleys Canyon to downtown Salt Lake City - about what it takes to get into town from Sandy at rush hour - but tucked away in a woodsy canyon without a 7-Eleven or a Texaco in sight, Pinebrook felt as remote as a Mirror Lake log cabin.Particularly in 1983. Smart, chief photographer for the Deseret News, recalls looking out his living room window shortly after moving in and not being able to see another house. Today, he can see 50 . . . with another 100 just out of sight around the mountainside community.

But the Smarts decided in 1983 that clear air, long vistas, mature trees, access to outdoor recreation and quiet nights would more than compensate them for the inconveniences of "country life."

Seven years later, they have no regrets. "It's a really nice community," said Smart. "There are a lot of people our age who live here and I don't see us leaving in the foreseeable future."

Having said that, Smart admits he is not entirely pleased about the growth Pinebrook has had in recent years, even though the "discovery" of the development by others has increased the value of his home.

Like most of the early buyers in the development, Smart's not wild about the high-density housing, condominiums and commercial development that have been built - with more on the way - in the project's "lowlands."

"I think there have been some mistakes made in the project with some of the extremely high-density construction down below," he said. "But in fairness to Pinebrook, there's always a little resentment when someone builds next to you on land that you had begun to think of as `your' property."

But, perhaps ironically, Smart also allows that he has a closer association with his neighbors at Pinebrook than he has had anywhere he's lived. And he readily admits that there have been no surprises. "It's developed pretty much the way I thought it would seven years ago," he said.

Court Klekas, Pinebrook's director of sales (and also a Pinebrook resident) virtually since its inception, would be glad to hear that. The complex has been master planned for a variety of low-density (799 acres), medium-density (40 acres) and high-density (20 acres) housing, along with multifamily (198 acres) and commercial (69 acres) uses, and all buyers must sign a statement at closing acknowledging they have seen and understand the plan.

Pinebrook is no whirlwind development. Utah Real estate broker Meeks Wirthlin and a partner first began buying the property in 1966. It had long been part of the huge Jeremy Ranch (Pinebrook is just across I-80 from the Jeremy Ranch housing and golf course complex), but rather than grazing land, Wirthlin envisioned the canyon as a family community that would be close to skiing and other recreation but without the go-go resort atmosphere of Park City.

That vision proved to be correct. Today, said Klekas, fewer than a dozen of Pinebrook's 250-plus families use their house or condo as a second home and almost all commute to work along the Wasatch Front.

By 1967, Wirthlin had formed a development company, bought some additional parcels of land to expand the property and, most importantly, had acquired 2,000 acre feet of underground water rights.

Water has always been a problem for developers in Summit County but Klekas states flatly, "We have the best water in (the) Park City (area). We've tested all the water we'll ever need to complete this project."

At the current rate of sales, that could be in as little as seven years, said Klekas, but realistically more like 10.

With all of the work involved in developing roads and utilities, Wirthlin didn't begin actually selling lots until 1977. The first house at Pinebrook was built in 1979 by Terry Christiansen, assistant Summit County attorney. He and his family still live there.

In that year 100 Pinebrook lots went on the market; in 1979 another 120 were platted. Then the Ranch (32 units) and Elk Run (64 units) condominiums came along as did Sunbrook and Eagle Ridge, higher-density housing. Gump & Ayers Real Estate Inc. became the marketing agent.

But the 1980s were not any better to Pinebrook than they were to other Park City real estate projects, with years in which only a dozen or so lots were sold. In 1988, principal lender (80 percent) Dime Savings of New York worked out a deal to avoid foreclosure. Wirthlin came away with 57 acres of land in Pinebrook and Dime acquired the remainder.

The Bradford Group, which brokered the loan, took over management of the project and Adrian Bradford became general manager. Dan Schofield, project manager and president of Sahara Construction, a major builder at Pinebrook and the contractor for the new Sports Arena in Salt Lake City, has been with the project since 1979. He has been in charge of planning, engineering and construction."Dime plans to develop it, not sell it," Klekas assures. "We stagnated for a while, but now it's really taking off. There's a lot of construction going on here."

Ecker Hill Plat B, a major new single-family-home section behind historic Ecker Hill (which is on the property and has been designated a national monument) began sales last spring. Thirty-five lots have been sold there for an average price of $48,000. Klekas said construction of new homes will begin next summer.

Total lots sold in Pinebrook Estates - building lots for single family homes - total 94 this year.

Horsethief Canyon Ranch is another new development at Pinebrook. Model homes are nearing completion. They will sell from $99,000 to $131,000. Other new construction at the complex includes the Family Nurturing Center, preschool and day care; and the Carden School, a private elementary and junior high school scheduled to open next month.

Real estate is fickle and cyclical, of course, but right now Pinebrook is on a roll. Gross sales in 1990 were $3.5 million but "total activity," said Klekas, was more like $20 million. Of the 365 single-family lots sold since the beginning, about 150 owners have built on them so far and Klekas expects most owners will eventually build. "People buy lots here with the idea of one day building their dream home."

In the past, he said, home prices at Pinebrook have ranged from $160,000 to $285,000. "We've had a hard time getting more than $250,000 for a house here." But now, he said, that barrier is beginning to crack. While the average sales price is $223,000, there are now a half-dozen homes that have broken the $250,000 barrier, with one at $380,000.