More than 100 people attended a packed Stansbury Service Agency meeting Wednesday evening over concerns about Stansbury Lake’s private status.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, residents described current problems with the lake and concerns that public status could exacerbate them. Complaints included excessive trash, unruly youth, profane language and a lack of signage.
Some residents also argued the lake, which was originally constructed by private developer Terracor, had always been private and they had purchased homes in the community based on that understanding.
Long-time resident Leslie Wanlass described problems with trespassing, littering and other problems for homeowners on the lake.
“How many people have to consistently be policing every time they go in their backyard?” Wanlass said. “… We’re constantly having to police and go out and tell people to leave our yards.”
The public comment period was occasionally raucous, with audience members interrupting board trustees and other speakers.
The agenda item pertaining to the comments was listed as lake use policy update. A proposed amendment to the lake use policy under review by the board could remove specific references to the lake’s status as private.
Under the “Enforcement” section of the current lake use policy, it states, “Stansbury Lake is a private lake.”
Trustee Mike Johnson cited a 2010 change to the Utah Code that could compel the service agency to make the lake public, based on his understanding the lake is a navigable water and the land under the lake is owned by the service agency.
Terracor built the lake but following its bankruptcy, the developer’s assets were turned over to Tooele County, according to Johnson. The Stansbury Service Agency was created by the county to maintain those assets, including the lake.
The service agency is a government entity that sets a tax levy and collects tax revenue to pay for its operations, which include maintaining the lake, parks and other open space it manages.
Despite concerns about whether it is legal for a governmental entity to operate a private lake, Johnson and the other trustees were adamant they did not want to make the lake public.
“Here’s the concern,” Johnson said. “It’s not that we want to make the lake public. We got looking into this and the question was, isn’t the lake public already?”
When residents asked who challenged the private status of the lake, Trustee Cassandra Arnell said people came to the service agency with concerns the private status wasn’t being enforced.
“As we looked more and more we realized … we’re a government entity,” Arnell said. “We’re publicly elected. We set a tax rate. The county collects taxes and gives them to us to use to maintain these things, and maybe it’s not appropriate.”
“I want all of these same things that you want,” she added. “I just want to make sure we’re doing it the right way.”
Trustee Neil Smart said the board hopes the lake is private and doesn’t want to change its status.
“We’re going to do everything that we can to say that it’s private,” Smart said. “We also want to make sure we’re doing it right. That’s it. We’re not trying to change it from being private. We’re not passing a resolution. We’re not even going to say let’s vote on it and make it public.”
The board tabled the lake use policy update in a unanimous vote, on a motion by Johnson, seconded by Smart.