Salt Lake County officials will not ask a city planning commissioner to leave his post while he completes a contract to develop a canyon master plan for the county.
County commission Chairman Bart Barker says his concerns - that planning consultant Ralph E. Becker may have a conflict of interest because he is working for the county under contract and at the same time serving on the Salt Lake City Planning Commission - have been addressed and the matter is settled.The county's planning commission determined during an informal poll of members that Becker's post as a city planning commissioner is not a conflict of interest with his county contract to put together a master plan regulating future land use and commercial development in seven local canyons.
Since the county planning commission by ordinance has authority over master planning projects, the decision of its members settles the matter, Barker said.
Becker's consulting firm, Bear West, last year was awarded an $89,000 contract to develop the canyon master plan. Last July he was appointed to fill a vacant city planning commission seat, but county commissioners did not learn of the appointment until last week.
The canyon master plan, which the county hopes to finalize later this year, has become a bitter battle between environmentalists on one side and would-be canyon developers and the ski industry on the other.
Developers have long complained that Salt Lake City, which controls canyon water rights, would not let them build on the city's canyon watersheds, although it is the county that has land use jurisdiction in most local canyons.
Barker had worried that Becker's city planning commission appointment might be seen by some as an attempt by Salt Lake City to control the canyon master planning process. Such a perception, even if erroneous, could damage the credibility of the county's planning efforts, he said.
Becker said he didn't feel his dual roles were a conflict of interest but he offered to step down from the city planning commission seat if the county determined his holding the position was a problem.