The Powder Mountain rezone petition was tabled again by the Ogden Valley Planning Commission at Tuesday's meeting. It was agreed that the rezone request will be heard on November 27, 2007, at 4:30PM.
Jamie Lythgoe, an OVPC Commissioner, belatedly provided disclosure of her family (Cobabe) holdings that include one-half of one percent of Western America Holding, the company requesting the rezone now before the OVPC, and 200+ acres of land adjacent to the rezone area. It is important to note that none of this family ownership information disclosed by Ms. Lythgoe Tuesday night was forthcoming until a newspaper article broke the story last week.
Representing the VCRD, I personally talked to Ms. Lythgoe in early September about the issue of Conflict of Interest at Powder Mountain. She told me that Ms. Hurtado, deputy County attorney, stated there was no conflict of interest with her being in the Real Estate business in the area. During this conversation, Ms. Lythgoe never disclosed the current holdings of the Cobabe family she later detailed at yesterday's OVPC meeting.
If there is any question whether the Cobabe holdings would appreciate in value with the rezone of almost 8,000 acres for a "World Class Resort" adjacent to their property, one needs only to look at what is happening all across Ogden Valley to property value assessments and taxes because of new adjacent developments.
The VCRD membership feels that the conflict of interest rule clearly applies on this issue. The Cobabe family owns one-half of one percent of the development area (almost 8000 acres) that will be impacted by the rezone request, and an additional 200+ acres adjacent to the rezone area.
Most of the OVPC Commissioners Tuesday appeared to have no problem with the conflict of interest issue for Ms. Lythgoe despite the fact that her family's holdings clearly fit the conflict of interest criteria as defined in the Planning Commission Procedures.
The Planning Commission Procedures, (Regarding Conflict of Interest) Part A reads:
"A Planning Commissioner to whom some private benefits may come as the result of a Planning Commission action should not be a participant in the action." Part 1 states "The Private benefit may be direct or indirect, create a material, personal gain or provide a distinct advantage to relations or to friends or to groups and associations which hold some of share of a person's loyalty."
The Commission Chairman, Louis Cooper and the Asst. County Attorney Allred were quoted in the Standard Examiner last week that they were under the impression that the Cobabe family had sold all of their interests at Powder Mountain. In addition, Monette Hurtado this morning is quoted regarding Ms. Lythgoe's disclosure as saying "As to her specific ownership, I don't know the details," and "She did disclose that her family sold all their land."
In summary, what we have here is a deputy County Attorney that admits not knowing all the details about Ms. Lythgoe's family ownership but is quoted as the source for the "No conflict of Interest" legal opinion by the OVPC Chairman Louis Cooper.
It is obvious and disappointing that the OVPC Commissioners are dominated by the deputy County attorney and are reluctant to challenge her opinion even when the facts regarding a conflict of interest hits them right between the eyes. We would remind the Commissioners that her job is legal advice for the County and they should not subordinate their independent judgment on a sensitive issue such as conflict of interest involving a fellow Commissioner when it could further undermine the public trust in government.
Our members question the reason that Ms. Lythgoe doggedly will not recuse herself on this Powder Mountain issue unless she has some long range stake in the outcome. As the OVPC Chairman pointed out, there are six other commissioners to address this rezone. The OVPC members have recused themselves in the recent past numerous times on conflict issues less egregious than the direct Cobabe family ownership of a property rezone now before the OVPC.
Your VCRD Staff