Since Snyder began with the city April 5, Wal-Mart has been a 200,000-square-foot gorilla on his back, and most residents have known him only by the ongoing project, but the truth of the matter is, Wal-Mart pre-dates Snyder, and he came on board only guessing what a monster of a project it would likely become.
City Manager Steve Thacker, who acts as Snyder's supervisor, said that during interviews, candidates were told of the upcoming Wal-Mart project.
"When we conducted interviews," Thacker said, "we let them (the applicants) know (about Wal-Mart)."
"After what happened (with former City Planner Paul Allred)," Thacker said, "you might think the better planners might want to shun Centerville. But he (Snyder) was willing to accept the challenge."
A short scan through Centerville city council notes indicates that the city planner seat in Centerville sometimes functions better as a musical chair than as a community development director's chair. Allred was ousted in 2002 in a still-unexplained yet very public incident, and Allred's replacement, former county planner Aric Jensen, was drafted from Centerville into Bountiful's ranks early this year, once again vacating the seat.
It was here that Snyder took the planning helm with a Wal-Mart iceberg looming. He remained, however, undaunted.
"I've been a city manager for 21 years," Thacker said, "not just here but also at other cities, and so I've know many planners. Cory is a very good planner. He has a complete set of skills: thorough knowledge of planning principles, knows Utah law and case law as it pertains to planning, has outstanding interpersonal skills dealing with people, he's a good writer and makes good presentations."
"I'm very pleased with our selection," Thacker said, "and I know the Mayor is too." Additionally, city council members have voiced their support for Snyder.
Snyder's road to becoming a planner began in construction. When that industry began struggling, and with a wife, two children and one on the way, he saw a need for a career change and returned to Weber State University. Snyder eventually graduated in geography with an emphasis in GIS (geographic information system) analysis and a certificate in land use planning.
He spent two years as an entry level planner with Summit County, and eight and a half years in Ogden, helping to rewrite the city's general plan.
Thacker said he knows for a fact that Snyder was not a Wal-Mart fan when he came on, and documents written by Snyder at the initial meeting on Wal-Mart, March 24 -- titled "Comments from Corvin Snyder, Future Community Development Director" -- agree with Thacker's assessment. Snyder is skeptical about the project.
"I did not come here seeking Wal-Mart," Snyder said. "I did not come (to Wal-Mart) with open arms. I was very hesitant in my first memo."
In fact, much of his writing mirrors the concerns that anti-Wal-Mart authors have penned on the Centerville project. In those writings, Snyder worries about the number of parking stalls, signs, buffer areas, traffic, "monotonous application of building materials" and more that would seem familiar to those who read Centerville Citizens FIRST memos.
"I'm sure Robin (Salvagio, of CLC Associates, the firm representing Wal-Mart) hates me. I know I'm not her favorite person," Snyder said. Snyder explained that Wal-Mart has not been able to tap dance its way into the city, as many, he believes, suspect.
Comparing two renderings of the proposed Supercenter, one mid-June and one mid-July, he explained that the upgrades were likely $1.3 million in cosmetic upgrades.
"Some will say that they can afford it," Snyder said, "Likely so. But it's still business. They don't build this kind of store unless they really want to build one."
Above all else, Snyder seems pleased that the Wal-Mart application has both educated and involved the public. Nothing else in Centerville's history has brought out people like the Wal-Mart issue has -- not even fluoride. When Cen-terville passed a $6 million budget earlier this year, two residents showed up, one because she already had to for another issue. The Wal-Mart issue, on the other hand, brought out, at one point, half-a-thousand people, and it has continued to bring out the masses since March.
Snyder thinks this is a good thing. After the planning commission's decision denied Wal-Mart permission to build, Snyder praised community involvement.
"The intensity and level of interest affected enough individuals that they began participating," Snyder said. "People have become educated about planning and zoning. Planning affects lives directly, but we don't teach these kind of things in civic school. I hope this kind of involvement continues."
Snyder hopes the community can see him for the planner he is, not just through Wal-Mart colored glasses. He sees community development, Legacy Highway impact, underutilization of the west side of the freeway, hillside issues and monitoring neighborhood lifecycles as critical issues. He explained that pressure to build high density housing in the city's existing agricultural areas will come in the next decades if the issues are not addressed now.
In the meantime, Snyder said he enjoys time home with his wife and six children. He enjoys reading, hiking, yearly family excursions to Antelope Island and finding objects in the night sky through his eight-inch Meade Dobsonian telescope.