Private massage practice approved in Silver Summit despite neighbors' concerns - The...

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    The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission narrowly approved a Silver Summit homeowner's request to operate a massage business out of his home last week, despite protests from neighbors concerned about a commercial business operating in the neighborhood.

    The volunteer panel approved the low-impact permit 5-1, with commissioner Thomas Cooke dissenting. Commissioners Bea Peck, Joel Fine, Canice Harte, John Kucera and Malena Stevens voted in favor of the proposal. Commissioner Ryan Dickey did not attend the meeting.

    An earlier motion for approval ended in a 3-3 tie when commissioners were unable to agree on ways to mitigate some of the impacts the business could have on surrounding property owners. A motion was then made to reconsider, which allowed the commissioners to engage in more discussion about any potential impacts traffic may have on surrounding homeowners. Commissioners ultimately decided to approve the low-impact permit request.

    Peck, the commission chair, said the request was an administrative matter that Community Development Director Pat Putt would have typically reviewed. However, when complaints or concerns are raised from the public, the commission can hold a public hearing.

    Peck said the comments from residents can only be taken under consideration if they offer ideas on how to reduce the impacts the business will have on the neighborhood.

    "Even though you have emails and comments, as long as the applicant meets the criteria set by the code and is in compliance with the code our job is basically to pass it," she said in an interview. "It's not like when we are acting in a legislative capacity where public clamor is important. We can only mitigate conditions such as traffic or noise."

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    Commissioners' approval will allow the property owners, Angela and Scot Erickson, to operate a massage therapy practice out of their home between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. A county staff report states that the maximum number of clients would be four per day, with all parking restricted to the couple's driveway. The Park Record was unable to reach the Ericksons for comment.

    Several neighbors sent letters and emails to the county expressing concerns about a commercial business operating in a residential neighborhood, with many fearing an approval would set a precedent for other home-based businesses, the staff report states.

    Kim and Judy McClelland, who say they were the first family to move into Silver Summit in 1983, said in a letter to the county that the massage business would be inviting the public into the neighborhood for a commercial purpose.

    "Even though the business use might be minimal at first, if the business owner is successful customer volume will increase, traffic will increase and we run the risk of having the residential character of our neighborhood impacted," the letter stated.

    Sharon Kellner said in a letter that, while she appreciated the applicant's honesty in asking for permission, she was still opposed to the business's approval.

    "I still find such business activity inappropriate in our peaceful residential neighborhood, as well as having serious concerns for opening the door to a slippery slope of other business operations being permitted in the neighborhood," she wrote. "I wholeheartedly support the pursuit of this business operation in an appropriate retail/commercial space or as a mobile operation."

    Most of those who sent letters provided input at the hearing. Harte said all of the comments were taken into consideration. However, he added, "We are not allowed to consider statements like 'I like it' or 'I don't like it.'"

    "I think it's reasonable that people are concerned about what happens in their neighborhood and when change comes about it can be uncomfortable," he said in an interview. "If a use is not allowed, then we have much more latitude. But, in this case it was on the list of allowed uses."

    Cooke, who lives in the neighborhood, said he ultimately voted against the proposal because of the traffic it could create. He said there are no sidewalks, no lights and a lot of young children who live in the neighborhood that could be at risk with unfamiliar drivers traveling through the neighborhood.

    Cooke also pushed for a condition of approval that would have restricted customers from idling their vehicles. But, that request never made it into the final conditions of approval, which is why he cast the dissenting vote.

    "We had a robust discussion about that, but some commissioners thought it was an unreasonable condition," he said. "Our job was clear and that if it is an allowed use not to question it. We are just supposed to make sure we are mitigating the impacts and that is what I was trying to do."

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