MIDWAY Despite a petition in the works that could stop Aspen, Utah, in its ski tracks, developer Dean Sellers and his planners continued the sales pitch Monday to a group of local government and business leaders.
Sellers, originally from Arizona, where he was a residential developer for 35 years, is making his first attempt at building a town, which he wants to name Aspen.
Sellers' dream is to build a world-class town in the mountains with an accompanying ski resort and 18-hole golf course.
The 8,366-acre area of Wasatch County Sellers wants to incorporate into his town would have qualified for incorporation if area residents hadn't filed a petition to annex into the nearby town of Daniel.
Residents of three subdivisions in Sellers proposed boundaries, led by Kasey and Heather Bateman, filed three petitions between the first week of October and the first week of November to stop Sellers. The third petition was the charm, said Heather Bateman.
Annexation was the only loophole in HB466, which relaxed the requirements for incorporation, Bateman said she and her neighbors could find.
Utah law states that if an annexation petition is pending, it trumps an incorporation petition that includes the same area.
And if it's approved, it will eliminate most of the residents in the three subdivisions Storm Haven, Tammy Lane and Crazy Acres Sellers needs for his minimum population requirements.
The Batemans' petition was filed with Daniel the morning of Nov. 8, and Sellers' petition to incorporate was filed with Wasatch County that afternoon.
The Batemans' managed to swing a few residents who originally signed Sellers' petition onto their side and withdraw their support from Aspen.
And it's not because they are anti-development. said neighbor Angie Gustin, who signed the petition to annex into Daniel.
"I'm not saying it won't be a beautiful, wonderful thing," she said. "I don't know what (his) plan is."
Sellers' master planners, the Jack Johnson Company, said they need an incorporation before they master plan the town.
Ideally, said project manager Brad Johnson, he could begin master planning the community in January and then break ground by 2009.
"There are still many studies and much research that needs to be done," he said.
Johnson said his team will investigate the needs of residents to figure out how to bring in schools, churches and parks.
"We still plan to gather data," he said, adding that his team will order aerial photos and environmental and technical studies.
Preliminary studies show that the mountain could provide runs on vertical slopes of 1,000 to 1,400 for a ski resort, which is perhaps the most controversial part of Aspen, Utah, Johnson said, because of ongoing concerns over the resort's development.
Once the town incorporates and town officials can be chosen, they can work on ordinances and codes and then begin phase 1 of the project.
But that seems a little backward to some of the residents, who say they don't want to find out later that vacationers will be looking down into their backyards, or worse, find out later their land will be condemned.
Wasatch County Council members Steve Farrell and Jay Price, who attended the presentation, say they haven't made up their minds about Aspen, Utah, because Monday was their first chance to hear about it directly from Sellers and his team.
"We have lots of concerns," Farrell said, "about the effect on the rest of the community and on the residents."
But they would like the entire County Council to get a look at the scope of Sellers' project, too.
Sellers said he has given his word to the residents that they won't be condemned, and reiterated it for those who attended his presentation Monday.
"Our main interest here is people," he said. "We are not going to change the configuration nor the type of lifestyle they enjoy there. I have zero interest in changing anything in Storm Haven."
He said he offered to grandfather in the zoning and home configuration residents along U.S. 40 currently have.
But Kasey Bateman says he heard that promise, but says he's been told that Sellers can't promise anything because the future mayor and Town Council, who won't be appointed until there's a town, will make those decisions.
"He knows he can't be held liable (for those promises) because he's not the mayor," Kasey Bateman said.
And that makes the Batemans uneasy.
Sellers' attorney, Steven Clyde, predicts that the Daniel Town Council, which meets Dec. 3 to decide the fate of the annexation petition, will deny it.
Clyde called the petition "sloppy" and "riddled with deficiencies" and said certain people who signed the petition weren't qualified to do so.
And Sellers said the residents who circulated the petition did it for "little, selfish designs."
He and Clyde are confident the Daniel Town Council will see things their way.
If things don't go their way, Sellers has said, litigation may be necessary.
But the residents aren't Sellers' only hurdle.
To run a town, golf course and ski resort, you need water a lot of water.
And Sellers has yet to secure the necessary amount of water for the area yet.
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