Weber County 180-unit housing plan sparks ire, concern about overdevelopment

Thursday , November 16, 2017 - 12:00 AM2 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The country feel and starry nighttime skies are the big draws to life in the unincorporated zone west of West Haven, an area dubbed Taylor.

“It’s very rural. There are farms out there. There’s big acreage,” said Shae Bitton, who’s lived in the rural section of Weber County since 2000.

But with a pending 180-unit housing proposal in the works — among several other development plans — she fears her relatively quiet corner of Weber County may soon get more noisy, more unruly. She, and others, are starting to worry, starting to organize.

“The Taylor community feels like this is unsustainable growth that creates an insane amount of impact,” Greg Bell, another Taylor resident, told Weber County commissioners at their weekly meeting Tuesday. He was speaking against the proposed housing development, the Sunset Equestrian Cluster Subdivision, and warned it would bring in more traffic, could lead to overcrowding of local schools and adversely impact groundwater.

Bell, speaking for Bitton and other Taylor residents, appealed to commissioners to block the September decision by the Western Weber Planning Commission approving the development plan, put forward by Fieldbrook Taylor Partners, the land owner. And though county commissioners ultimately acceded to the residents, sending the plans back to the planning commission for additional review, the fight for the Taylor area residents isn’t over.

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Bitton said she and the others plan to push the planning commission to rework the Sunset Equestrian plan, reducing the density of the development from 180 homes to temper its impact. Failing at that, they’re eyeing the bonus density provisions of the county’s zoning regulations, which, to their chagrin, allow for denser housing clusters in unincorporated areas under certain conditions.

“Our whole entire community is willing to fight,” Bitton said after Tuesday’s meeting in Ogden, which drew around 30 residents from the Taylor area. The bonus density provisions of county ordinance are the focus of planned discussion at the regular Western Weber Planning Commission next Tuesday, in response to concerns raised by the Taylor residents.

County Commissioner James Ebert recognized the Taylor residents’ worries about potential new development, but said the issue at hand Tuesday was more focused — whether the Sunset Equestrian plans complied with county ordinance. Broader debate over the “quality of life” in Taylor and how zoning laws bear on that is a discussion “we want to continue to have, but not in this forum,” he said.

Doug Nosler of Fieldbrook, owner of the land where the proposed development would sit, understands the neighbors’ concerns. But land values will likely rise, he suspects, benefitting area residents. And as the property owner, he has considerations, too. Fieldbrook is selling the land to the developer that’s planning the residential development.

The proposed development is “the highest and best use of that property,” Nosler, who’s based in Kaysville, said by phone. He went on: “We didn’t buy the property to lose money, either.”

Not in the suburbs

In the end Tuesday, commissioners upheld the Taylor residents’ appeal in light of apparent elements of the development proposal that don’t comply with county ordinance — the size of certain lots and other details. It’ll go back to the Western Weber Planning Commission, most likely so it can be tweaked and be brought into compliance with county zoning law.

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But the ire directed by the Taylor residents at the bonus density provisions notwithstanding, any change, should county leaders tweak the zoning laws, wouldn’t be retroactive and applicable to the Taylor plans, according to Rick Grover, director of the Weber County Planning Division. Bonus density provisions — applicable if developers do things like add open space to their developments — boost the number of planned homes on the Taylor development to 180, up from 124.

Even so, changing the bonus density provisions are on the radar screen of Bitton, Bell and others. A total of nine developments are planned or proposed in the Taylor area, they say, and they worry about the long-term effects if more and more homes rise from the ground as people seek open space to build.

“We don’t want to be in the suburbs,” Bitton said, noting the 389 signatures of Taylor area residents on a petition targeting the bonus density provisions. “We want to be in the country.”

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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