Large-scale North Ogden housing development spurs worries among homeowners

Saturday , October 07, 2017 - 5:45 AM11 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

NORTH OGDEN — Jeff Bomar moved into his North Ogden home off E. 1900 North in search of solitude.

He liked that there were no homes in front, across 1900 North, or to the south, in the unincorporated expanse that abuts his backyard. “It was pretty secluded,” he said.

With plans moving forward to develop a massive plot of land behind his house, though, he’s rethinking things, mulling the sale of his home and a move to a more remote part of Weber County. “Going out west, maybe,” he said.

There’s been talk of developing the land behind Bomar’s home for years, and next Tuesday, the North Ogden City Council formally weighs in on an Arizona developer’s ambitious proposal to turn the 32.9 acre property into a bustling housing and apartment complex. The plans call for building 70 structures — cottages for seniors, townhouses, apartment buildings and more. And if approved, the council action would mark a big step forward in turning the largely vacant land into a new population hub called the Village at Prominence Point.

Accordingly, many living on the periphery of the zone, like Bomar, are apprehensive, worried the new development — containing 607 living units — will bring unwelcome change.

“I moved here hoping to be in a nice quiet cul-de-sac,” said Charlene Reed, who lives on 300 East, a short, dead-end street just north of the property. “Now we find out they’re going to build a very large development — a lot of people, a lot of cars, a lot of things going on.”

North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who hosted an online discussion on the project last month on his Facebook page, doesn’t deny the project is massive. Scottsdale, Arizona, developer Jack Barrett has acquired an additional 16.6 acres since putting an earlier incarnation of the plan to city officials in 2015 and has expanded his proposal, necessitating next Tuesday’s meeting.

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“It’s certainly the largest mixed-use project that will ever be built in the city,” Taylor said. Apart from the housing units, the plans call for 35,912 square feet of commercial space on the eastern edge of the land, in the 1700 and 1800 blocks of busy N. Washington Boulevard, where the vacant Popcorn Express building now sits. 

But city officials, in conjunction with the developer and area residents who have spoken out, have tweaked the plans to minimize the potential impact to those already living in the area. They’re mindful of residents’ jitters.

Even so, many are still wringing their hands.

The proposal is one of the reasons Reed’s neighbor is mulling a move, she said, alluding to a for sale sign in front of the home next door.

Rosie Alexander, who lives on 150 East on the western periphery of the project area, thinks the plans call for too much in too little space, which will lead to traffic congestion, parking issues and more. An assisted-living facility geared to the elderly is to be built abutting her backyard, parallel to the Village at Prominence Point project.

“They’re shoving way too much in that small spot,” she said.

The lure of North Ogden, she said, is that it’s a more wide open, suburban community. The new development plans — meant in part to expand the type of housing available in North Ogden, beyond single-family homes — run counter to that. “We’re North Ogden. We’re supposed to be open space,” she said.

She, like Bomar, also worries the development will mar her view of the mountains to the east. “They throw in a big old apartment complex there, it’s going to block my view,” Bomar said.

In addition to considering the general development plan for the land, the North Ogden City Council next Tuesday will be considering a zoning change for the 16.6 acres of new land to be folded into the plans.

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PROGRESS WILL HAPPEN

Of course not everybody is jittery.

“Progress is going to happen,” said Heidi Call, who lives across the street from Reed. “People need places to live.”

Call, like many, had her doubts, but she said city officials — who have met twice since late September to discuss the plans — have done their best to be responsive. For instance, there had been talk of opening her dead-end street, connecting it into the planned development, which would have brought increased traffic, but leaders agreed to take steps to prevent that possibility.

“I think the city council has done a great job of listening to the neighbors and what we have to say. None of us wanted it, but they listened to us,” Call said.

Taylor said Barrett designed the project to minimize the impact to adjacent neighbors and city officials helped secure modifications in setbacks and the height of certain buildings to further temper its adverse effects. The housing won’t be subsidized, it will be rented out or sold at market rates.

“The placement of the buildings has been very strategic to reduce to impact on neighbors,” Taylor said, further noting that multi-unit housing and commercial development has long been envisioned on the land.

Indeed, it could be worse, said Jon Call, Heidi Call’s husband. An earlier incarnation of the plan called for strictly commercial development on the land. 

‘GIVE THIS THING BIRTH’

Barrett, developing the project through Meritage Companies and Mountain Vista Trails, addressed North Ogden officials on the plans at a joint city council-planning commission meeting on Oct. 3. He urged them to act, noting the years of efforts to pull the plans together.

“It’s time to give this thing birth,” he said. Continued wrangling over details, he warned, could “kill the project.”

He didn’t return subsequent calls from The Standard-Examiner seeking comment, but Taylor said he understands Barrett hopes work can start this year. Detailed plans for each of the varied elements — cottages, an independent living complex for seniors, townhouses, apartment buildings and commercial structures — would have to be crafted.

Jill Smith, for one, would like to see the development come to fruition.

She had long lived in North Ogden but sold her home after deciding to downsize, she told the city council and planning commission at the Oct. 3 meeting. She sought out new housing, but as a single, empty-nester, the options in North Ogden didn’t fit her needs and she ended up leaving the city and moving in with her daughter and son-in-law.

Barrett’s project seems to have options that would fit her needs, and she said it would be a boon to the city.

“I didn’t want to leave North Ogden, but I had to in order to downsize,” she said. 

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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