Public Works Department
Foothills, Canyons, Overlay Zone (FCOZ)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is FCOZ?
--Foothills and Canyons Overlay Zone
A zoning ordinance that applies to the Salt Lake County canyon areas, includes Emigration, Parley’s, Millcreek, Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood, Rose and Butterfield canyons.
Basically, FCOZ refers to County ordinances that deal with how, where and when activities and development can happen in our canyons.
The complete ordinance can be found here.
What is a Slope Waiver?
A slope waiver refers to the slope on which development is proposed to be built on. There are regulations that restrict construction on any slope steeper than 30%. In order to be allowed to build on a steeper slope, the developer must receive a slope waiver.
FCOZ was created in 1997 and its original form stated that no construction could take place on slopes greater than 30%. This was primarily aimed at keeping private residential cabins off steep slopes because of slope stability and erosion. When the ordinance was being prepared the ski resorts felt that they could not operate if their features such as ski lift towers, mid-mountain services and commercial structures could not be placed on steep slopes. So the ordinance was written with a process to waive the slope restrictions. The slope waiver provisions simply list the conditions that must be considered for a designated ski resort to apply for a permit to build on a slope steeper than 30%. The permit is still subject to all of the safety and environmental criteria of a private cabin in addition to geologic studies regarding the stability of the hill.
Is the County revising FCOZ at this time so Snowbird can build a mountain coaster?
Last summer Snowbird applied for permission to build a mountain coaster. That proposal was approved by the Salt Lake County Planning Commission, and later overturned by the County’s Board of Adjustment. The Board’s decision was based on an interpretation of the existing FCOZ ordinance; specifically the definition of a ski resort, that says all activities within a ski resort are permitted solely for snow related activities.
The Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment are both respected advisory bodies. Problems arise when two well-educated bodies arrive at completely different interpretations of the same land use law.
Therefore, there were a few immediate concerns that we presented for review to the County’s Planning Commissions: 1) Identify year round recreational activities as part of a ski resort. This allows the resorts to go ahead with their summer activity plans, like the Tour of Utah; 2) Identify which slope waiver exemptions are allowed for year round activities; and 3) Clarify that the planning commission may choose any of the ten criteria for granting a slope waiver.
The six planning commissions came up with different reactions to the proposal. Some said they could not support it without more information, others took a no-opinion position, some said to wait until future changes to FCOZ. The Salt Lake County Planning Commission, which has the actual jurisdiction over ski resorts voted in favor of the proposal.
After FCOZ is revised will Snowbird be permitted to build their mountain coaster?
--Not necessarily. It doesn’t automatically grant the permit nor does it waive the technical requirements.
If we do not make changes to FCOZ, a winter use only mountain coaster may still be applied for as long as it is not on slopes greater than 30%.
Under the revised FCOZ ordinance Snowbird may apply for a ‘year round use’ mountain coaster to be permitted on steeper slopes. While they can apply for a building permit for a coaster, to actually obtain a building permit requires approval from Salt Lake City Public Utilities (SLCPU) and Salt Lake County Health Department (SLVHD).
Here is the process: 1) Apply for a permit, 2) Undergo an initial review. Once that is done the planning commission must give preliminary approval, then they set conditions that must be met before giving final approval. Among those conditions are approval by SLCPU and SLVHD. The County’s Planning Division relies on SLCPU and SLVHD to assess the impact to watershed.
If Snowbird can clear those hurdles, along with some building requirements, then they would get final approval.
What are the main goals of the future planned FCOZ revisions?
--Simplify, Clarify, Modernize
Our number one goal is to take the mystery out of FCOZ. We want people to be able to see clearly what is permissible or not permissible within our canyons.
Simplify: We want FCOZ to be worded in such a way as to be more explicit and therefore more understandable.
Clarify: Clarify the summer use question for ski resorts. When the BOA made the observation that summer uses were not part of the definition of ski resort in the ordinance it called into question previous decisions and future decisions about a variety of buildings and events. Summer uses have always been implied but not explicitly stated.
Modernize: In the longer term, we want to revise FCOZ to meet modern land use standards and base the development process in the canyons on sound principles such as density, parking, traffic, water and sewer; and not simply on slope protection.
On March 26, we will hold a Wasatch Canyons Today symposium to gather input from stakeholders and interested members of the public on a variety of issues that affect all of Salt Lake County’s canyons. Part of that symposium will include a panel discussion specifically about FCOZ so we can gather people who represent varying perspectives on FCOZ and try to find commonalities that can be applied to the ordinance change.
How do other jurisdictions (governments) determine summer use permits?
Has a “resort center” zone with a set of uses that include summer, winter, residential and commercial. The issue of summer or winter use is not in question because the zoning ordinance explicitly allows summer activities and structures. They also have a “mountain remote” zone that limits construction because of the inability to service structures in remote areas.
Does not call the entity a ‘ski resort’, but just a ‘resort’. It explicitly allows ski activities and “other closely related” activities. It also outlines specific uses that are allowed such as zip lines and alpine slides that are on rails (mountain coaster). It specifically rules out carnival or amusement park rides.
The U.S. Forest Service recognizes year round use and explicitly allows zip lines and disallows things like swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses.
What does the County do to help protect our watershed?
Salt Lake City has jurisdiction over the watershed in the canyons, which is why all development requests are submitted to Salt Lake City for review. In the canyon FCOZ process, a request for a building permit is always reviewed for compliance by Salt Lake City Public Utilities and by the Salt Lake County Health Department. If a project cannot meet their requirements the County does not issue a permit.
Also, Salt Lake County Planning and Salt Lake County Health Department worked together to create the drinking water source protection ordinance. This ordinance forces all development projects to be assessed for their proximity to drinking water sources and then enforces reviews and best practices for the projects.
What was the intent when FCOZ was originally written?
FCOZ was established in 1997. Prior to that there was an ordinance called the Hillside Protection Zone, which restricted building on the foothills of the County by limiting construction on slopes greater than 30%.
In 1997 the Hillside Protection Zone was expanded into the canyons and modifications were made to allow ski resorts to continue to operate. Additional features were added to protect vegetation, limit ridgeline development and establish construction standards.
How does FCOZ apply to the proposed Canyons-Solitude ski connect (gondola)?
FCOZ only applies to construction on private lands. Construction on Forest Service lands are outside of the County’s jurisdiction. The Forest Service would have to sell their land before any other reviews on the project will be completed. At this time we are not considering this issue while creating FCOZ revisions.
Planning & Development Resources Director