We hope the story of Friends of Alta gives you a better understanding of the deep roots this organization has in Alta's community and why the original mission of its founders is still a worthwhile cause to support today.
In 1979, one of the largest timeshare companies acquired land on the
by-pass road between Alta and Snowbird. They had plans to build 400 timeshare units, with tentative approval from Salt Lake County. They were required to ask for municipal services (fire, police, sewer, water, and communications) from the nearest municipality, which was the Town of Alta. That required that the area be subject to the Town's zoning ordinances, which were more restrictive than the County's. The timeshare company sued the Town when the Town informed the timeshare company that they could not offer services to that scale of a development. The timeshare company's lawyer informed Mayor Bill Levitt that they would keep the Town in court until they went bankrupt. The Town lost the first round in court.
When some winter guests at the Alta Lodge heard about the situation, they suggested that Mimi (Bill's wife) should start up a defense fund to help the Town pay for lawyers, and thus on an informal basis the Alta Defense Fund began. The Town hired one of the top law firms in Salt Lake City, and appealed the lower court decision to the Utah Supreme Court. The Town of Alta won by unanimous decision. The timeshare company twice appealed that decision to the Utah Supreme Court, losing each time.
In 1981, the Alta Defense Fund was formally incorporated, and in 1983 applied and received Federal 501(c)(3) designation.
By the mid 1980's, in addition to helping the Town of Alta pay legal fees to defend protective zoning regulations the Alta Defense Fund started attempting to acquire property in Albion Basin for preservation purposes. We also started lending support to our Interim School, Alta Community Enrichment (ACE), the Avalanche Forecast Center, and the Alta Historical Society. As a result of our broadened interests and focus on the critical Albion Basin watershed it was felt by the Board that the name Alta Defense Fund was too aggressive and no longer represented what we stood for, so we changed our name to Friends of Alta to better reflect our Mission.