A Vision Worth Protecting

A Look At Wasatch County’s General Plan

Wasatch County is currently the fourth-fastest growing county in the nation. How will we protect our current rural feel, uninterrupted vistas and quality of life as we grow? Traffic, air and water quality, preserving historic agricultural lands and resisting suburban sprawl are high on the priority lists of many local residents and for the General Plan.

Growth is inevitable, but it is essential that we adhere to a long-range plan if we value our current quality of life. The General Plan strategically identifies our county’s priorities, but the plan (and these priorities) has been recently challenged. It’s easy to honor and maintain the General Plan when our economy and population growth is underperforming or even average. It has become more difficult, however, to stay the course with our county’s heightened development pressures.

Many in our community understand the General Plan’s invaluable purpose and are concerned that allowing any amendments could set a legal precedent for future requests. The recent challenge to the plan, which proposed a Central Zone boundary change to allow a quadruple-density increase to one 20-acre parcel, would set such a precedent.

What, Exactly, Is The General Plan?

Back in 2001, 100 of the most knowledgeable and respected members of our community spent a few years creating the General Plan. Doug Smith, then Wasatch County Planner, was involved in its creation toward the end of the drafting process. He described the plan as such: “The General Plan establishes goals and policies for development of the county which are then used as a framework to adopt more specific ordinances. The General Plan is used as a tool for guidance when proposals for rezones are applied for.”

LaRen Provost was one of our three county commissioners before Wasatch County changed to a seven-member county council in 2000. He was also part of the group that updated the General Plan in 2001 and was recently philosophical about the group’s accomplishments. “We did the best we could with the General Plan, considering so many people were involved that had different views and interests. It’s not perfect, but it needed to be done,” he said. “It was hard for us to imagine back then the growth we would see in the next 17 years.”

The Future Of The Plan

The General Plan is only as strong as our conviction to uphold it. Just last year, the county council passed its vision and mission statement, which states in part, “We are dedicated to honoring and protecting the high quality of life we enjoy and are committed to creating a unique sense of place.” We, as a community, need to ensure that our leaders maintain that dedication.

The council’s statement continues, “Through thoughtful planning and zoning, that manages the impacts of growth, the county strives to balance the preservation of the area’s highly valued rural and agricultural character with the promotion of clean and sustainable economic, residential, recreational and tourism development opportunities.”

We are at a crossroads as a community. Any change in the General Plan’s zoning boundaries may set a legal precedent for future requests. If the plan is altered, more landowners will request changes that the council will be powerless to stop, and our vision for our county will be gone. The General Plan itself stresses the importance of adhering to its vision. Per the plan, “It is the intent of the Board of County Commissioners that the Wasatch County General Plan be adopted as ‘mandatory’ requiring all developments to adhere to the plan.”

Since proposed amendments are almost always to increase density — never to decrease it — the public is encouraged to share their opinions on growth at the public meetings.Thankfully, that forward-thinking group of 100 community members gave us the power speak up about any future challenges when they drafted the General Plan. The plan states, “Future requests for changes in zoning, not in accordance with this general plan, will require a change to the plan, thereby giving the public additional input into any changes made and ensure that established public policies in the plan are followed or appropriately changed.” Other small western towns have been through this exact same issue over the previous decades. How our valley looks 20 or 30 years from now is actively being decided today. If you’d like to participate in the discussion – as the original creators of the General Plan have empowered you to do. There is no time like the present to get involved.

To learn more about the Wasatch County General Plan, go to wasatch.utah.gov/Planning#61923-general-plan.

The General Plan: Stated Purpose In Regards To Planning

  • To promote the most acceptable type of development within each planning area of the county.
  • To insure the orderly growth of urbanizing areas and reduce the haphazard scattering of development that has occurred since the first plan became outdated.
  • To protect the natural and cultural resources of the county.
  • To insure that geologic hazards, flood plains, wetlands, ridgelines, view sheds and other physical constraints are adequately considered in each planning area.
  • To insure that growth does not over tax the water resources and degrade the clean air of the county.

Tracy Taylor is a local real estate broker of over 21 years with Keller Williams Real Estate. She is a recipient of the “2017 Advocate Award” by Keller Williams Park City for her volunteer work. Tracy is also the chair of the Wasatch Taxpayers Association which encourages citizen education and involvement, and transparency in government. Go to WasatchTaxpayersAssociation.com for more information.

If you’ve ever driven around the northwestern end of Heber, you may have noticed several sandstone markers displayed at the corners of 100 West 500 North, 100 West 100 North, 300 West 500 North, and 300 West 100 North, that mark the location of Fort Heber. Perhaps in your hustle to Smith’s Marketplace, you’ve wondered at the monument in front of the store. Whether you’re a long time resident or a newcomer, you’ve probably read the brief summaries of Heber’s history. As usual, there is always more to the story once you look deeper.

In 1858 a group of men came from Provo, surveyed the land in twenty-acre plots, and selected the townsite of Heber. The following winter, twenty families stayed there. As protection from the Northern Ute Indian tribe, they built a fort one block south and one block west from the site. The family homes were constructed using cottonwood logs and were joined together to form the outside wall of the fort. Inside the protective fort, a 20’ X 40’ building was erected; it had two fireplaces
and a stage and served as a schoolhouse, a church, and a gathering place for social events. In 1860 the fort was enlarged to house 44 families.

The Black Hawk War

In 1865, though there was no single act that started the war, a sub-chief named Antonga Black Hawk lead an uprising against the congressional act that forced the Ute tribes of Sanpete and Sevier Counties to reservations. Black Hawk retaliated against the settlers for broken promises, mistreatment, personal humiliation, and other acts that injured or killed Utes in the constant interactions between early settlers and natives since 1849. The Black Hawk War or Black Hawk’s War was a three-part war involving members of 16 Timpanogos Ute, Southern Paiute, Apache, and Navajo tribes, which lasted from 1865 to 1872.

The Friendship

Brigham Young ordered families throughout the valley to “fort up” in the central settlements of Heber, Midway, and Wallsburg. Like Brigham Young, Joseph Stacy Murdock, the presiding Bishop in Heber, believed it was better to feed the natives than to fight them. On August 20, 1867, Murdock invited Ute chief Tabby-To-Kwanah, a well educated, wise leader that served the interest of his people, to talk peace at his home. Chief Tabby, only wanting to speak with ‘Old Murdock’, rode down to Heber, taking with him all the sub-chiefs under his control, several hundred braves, women, and children, and camped out in Murdock’s yard and pasture. A feast was held the next day with enough meat, baked bread, corn, and whatever else the townsfolk had to offer to feed everyone. The two spoke all day. Later, Murdock and Chief Tabby exchanged simple gifts. A peace pipe was smoked, and a treaty of friendship was signed, ending the war between the settlers at Heber Valley and the Utes. With their signatures, the war was over, but only in Heber Valley and the surrounding towns and settlements. Chief Tabby acknowledged that he could not control Black Hawk’s actions across the rest of the territory. Even so, the meeting between Chief Tabby and Joseph Stacy Murdock lead the way for other treaties. Within a year, most of the fighting throughout the territory came to an end.

Peace In Heber Valley

Joseph and Tabby served their people well. They honored their vows to maintain peace and remained friends for life, leaders demonstrating their commitment to seeking and understanding the best of both worlds rather than fight.

Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine the wars and countless sacrifices that took place in our quiet valley not too long ago. Wars were fought, allies were made, and dynasties were altered, forging our valley into what it is today. Our valley still draws people in for the same reasons it was fought over — a beautiful, peaceful stretch of land worth fighting to keep.

The Burial Of Tom Tabby

One day in 1867, just two years after the signing of the Indian Peace Treaty, Chief Tabby rode into the valley. Astride his horse he carried the body of his son who had been killed in a hunting accident. Joseph Stacey Murdock recognized his friend and went to greet him. Knowing Murdock to be a religious leader among his people, Chief Tabby asked Joseph if he would bury his son in the custom of the ‘Mormons’. Feelings of great sorrow surged within Murdock as he conducted a Christian funeral service for his friend’s son. Tom Tabby was buried under a beautiful pine tree that had been planted several years before in the Heber cemetery by John H. Murdock.

After the final prayer Chief Tabby said, “My son has been buried in the white man’s custom, now he will be honored in the Indian fashion.” A rick of cedar logs was then laid upon the new grave and Tom Tabby’s favorite pony was led to it. The pony’s throat was cut and the animal was laid upon the pyre where the logs were set afire. Chief Tabby watched the fire until the embers slowly died, then mounting his horse, he rode off into the mountains east of Heber with his braves.