Wasatch Open Space Board May Share County Bond Funds With Municipalities

Wasatch County residents passed a $10 million open space bond in last November’s election, now the county is preparing to open up applications to use the funds.

The Wasatch Open Lands Board, or WOLB, is a committee put together by the Wasatch County Council in order to advise on the distribution of the $10 million bond.

The seven-member board is made up of two representatives from Wasatch County Council, and two citizens at large as well as one representative from the Heber City Council, Midway City Council, and the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Heber City Councilmember and WOLB Chair Heidi Franco explained at Tuesday’s Heber City Council meeting that towns in Wasatch County can request funds from the bond to preserve open space.

“The municipalities must base its recommendations on the following criteria: The preservation of land for outdoor recreation or education of the general public. That’s an IRS requirement. The protection of a natural habitat, fish, wildlife, plants, or similar ecosystems. The preservation of open space including farmland, forest land, where the scenic enjoyment is for the general public. It doesn’t do the city a lot of good try to use the bond money on some patch of ground that just the surrounding people can see.  Then pursuant to federal state and local policies the cities application will yield a significant public benefit it could preserve historically important lands

Franco explained that the county is hoping that cities will leverage the money to maximize value.

“To get matching moneys. We’re trying to leverage the County bond money with private monies or state monies or federal monies and so the County council saying cities you need to follow these same criteria that a Land Trust organization would use according to the IRS code. So, you have to follow this criteria, right? Then you work with Utah open lands or summit land Conservancy or any qualified 50C3 organization that can hold easments or apply for those other matching monies.”

Though the money will most likely be used for easement, cities can apply to actually purchase land outright. Franco says there’s addition requirements for those who follow that route.

“It would have to be based on public access right? Multi use trails, connectivity to open space lands and recreational uses. So there is that option for cities to say we just want to purchase this farmland, but then the County council through WOLB was going to say well look how is the public going to access it? What’s the recreational use that could be put on it? Then we want cities to work with the Land Trust organizations to apply for the leveraging funding.”

WOLB meets on Monday at 6:00 pm in the downstairs conference room at the county building. Items on the agenda include consideration and actions on WOLB’s website and Facebook page, as well as on a Landowner Packet.