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Summit County Council, residents discuss dispute surrounding home-based businesses

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Posted at 10:38 PM, Oct 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-17 00:38:35-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah -- Before the Summit County Council could even get to their agenda Wednesday night, they heard from the residents of Highland Estates, merely one part of their Snyderville Basin General Plan, but arguably, the most contentious.

“They have either through ignorance, or through willful ignorance or whatever, they have chosen to create a commercial business, which is very distinct from a home-based business,” said Mark Chase, one of several of the neighborhood’s residents to address the council.

The general plan provides the framework for 16 neighborhoods, including Highland Estates. At the heart of the disagreement is whether or not to make allowances for some of the neighborhood’s home-based businesses, which of the approximately 330 homes in the area, there are about 40.

“I was shocked that there were so many when I found out because I had no idea, which means that they’re not obtrusive,” one resident at the hearing said.

In the spring, several were cited for growing too big and violating the neighborhood’s codes, something the owners claim they had never heard of until now. The county council explained they had likely escaped citations in the past simply because no one had complained about them.

Business owners have argued that because the county has failed to enforce the codes for decades, they should not have to comply with them now. However, council members disagreed with such an assessment Wednesday night.

“The fact is the law is the law, and it’s our job to uphold it,” Council Chair Claudia McMullin said.

The county has given the business owners cited for violations an extension, but that expires in January. Council members said they would not consider changing the code or rezoning the neighborhood, which gave many owners little hope for their businesses Wednesday night.

“I think that’s the focus of the discussion tonight,” said Patrick Putt, who is the county community development director. “How we go about doing that, to what degree do we enforce? But really we have to step back and look at the broader question: What is the destiny for this particular neighborhood?”

The answer to that was still up for debate by the end of the meeting. The council decided not to adopt Phase 1 of the General Vote and continue their decision for a future council meeting.