Wasatch Open Lands Board Nearly Ready To Accept Preservation Applications

After Wasatch County voters passed a $10 million open space bond, the Wasatch Open Lands Board is nearly ready to receive applications from land owners.

See the original story at KPCW.org.

Wasatch Open Lands Board (or WOLB) Chair Heidi Franco says that the process has been long but that WOLB is nearing a point to receive applications from land owners interested in preserving open space.

“Between November until now the Wasatch Open Lands Committee has worked very hard to get everything up and running,” Franco continued. “Just because the money source is available doesn’t mean that the ordinance was in place to spend the money right? To have a process to have an application in place so it’s done legally, it’s done fairly, it’s going to be done openly.”

One item approved at WOLB’s Monday meeting were the boards bylaws. The bylaws will establish a framework for the board to work within when reviewing applications.

“Anyone in the county is welcome to apply and follow the application process,” Franco explained. “It’s just that these bylaws, that were trying to finish up now, help explain and give more details on the application process and then what the Wasatch Open Lands Board will do in that process. How they’ll respond, the kinds of reports and recommendations that we will do with the application and then also give to the county council to vote on.”

The bylaws are under legal review and will be presented to the County Council within the next month.

Franco says the major focus of the open space bond passed last fall was to preserve agricultural lands within the county. Although most of those lands are within unincorporated Wasatch County, landowners in Wasatch County towns can apply for funds, although they will have to go through an additional approval from the municipalities themselves.

Working with a certified land trust organization, such as Utah Open Lands, or Summit Land Conservancy, will be expected from land owners both in and outside of a municipality.

Midway Landowners will be able to apply for both Midway and Wasatch County Open Space Bond funds.

Franco says that WOLB has benefited from the work that the Midway Open Space Committee has done. The head of that committee, Courtland Nelson, is also on the WOLB board.

“He showed us not only the initial land owner packet that Midway had put together but also their complete full application and the formatting there,” Franco said. “They’ve been invaluable we really appreciate all their time and effort. We look forward to working with them. Like I say, Midway’s ahead of us. They really worked hard they’ve had several people dedicated to that alone. Whereas I’m you know on the Heber City Council we have two County council members. We’re not full time working on this, but we surely are trying to push it as hard and as fast as we can.”

Franco says that WOLB hopes to have a Land Owner Application Packet approved in May.

“Once that can be completed and approved then we will immediately be advertising that packet which will have the application,” Franco continued. “So, we’re hopeful that at least by the end of May into June, July, August, that the landowner packet application will be available for all land owners within Wasatch County to use. Then we’ll also be having the landowner meetings. Where they can come in and hear from the land trust organizations and how the process works, and how to go fill out their application, and eventually receive, hopefully, the open space bond money.”

The launching of a WOLB website is also likely to come in a month or two.

“We’re going to be putting in all of that information not only from the ordnances that have been passed by the County council but the bylaws,” Franco explained. “A few more policies, the landowner packet, we have videos from several meetings on the Land Trust organization. As well as a new Facebook page so we’re on the cusp. We’re getting close and we’re very excited.”