Monday , November 27, 2017 - 5:15 AM
NORTH OGDEN — Drive through North Ogden’s central business district during weekday rush hour and it’s clear — the city isn’t the sleepy farming community it once was.
According to the Utah Department of Transportation, daily traffic near North Ogden’s commercial area (the intersection of 2600 North and Washington Boulevard) has more than tripled over a 15-year period, going from about 7,500 vehicles in 2000 to 23,000 in 2015.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city’s population was 18,791 in 2016 — a 25 percent increase from 2000 when the population stood at 15,026.
And the growth realized over the past decade and a half might just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the city’s Economic Development Plan, North Ogden’s population will more than double, totaling approximately 40,000 residents, once all residential zones are built out.
Mayor Brent Taylor said build-out is estimated to occur in 2045, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it happened earlier. He pointed to the city’s commercial and residential development in 2017 as evidence for his reasoning.
According to data provided by the city, North Ogden has issued 150 building permits so far this year — up more than 50 percent from the 99 permits issued in 2016.
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“A lot of long-time land owners are selling their land and it’s being developed into subdivisions,” Taylor said. “And there just seems to be more and more people who want to live here.”
As roads become clogged and construction sites multiply, Taylor says he’s often asked by residents why the city allows so much development and why aren’t they stopping it.
“Development and growth is something we hear about a lot,” the mayor said. “But as a city, we haven’t gone to a single farmer and asked them to sell their land. It’s something private citizens are doing on their own.”
Taylor said the city can only plan for development and influence it through basic zoning strategies. He said the city works to encourage responsible and organized growth and development.
“We can and do put reasonable limitations on development,” he said. “But the private property owner still has and always should have the largest say in what happens on their own property.”
Impact fees for new development are among the highest in Weber County, Taylor said. The fees go to the city’s water and sewer systems and parks. In 2016, North Ogden’s city council approved a transportation impact fee, which on average charges new families moving into the city a one-time fee of about $2,300. The fee varies based on building type.
The city has also zoned areas along its two state highways (Washington Boulevard and 2700 North) for commercial, high-density multi-family, and mixed-use zones. All other areas in North Ogden are zoned for low-density residential uses.
A pair of high-density housing developments are planned for empty swaths of land on Washington Boulevard, plans Taylor says have received push-back from residents. But the mayor said there’s a growing demand for such developments and they will help accommodate population surge without creating the typical single-family style demand on city services.
The city is also planning a three-phase, $10.5 million project to redesign the intersection of Washington Boulevard and 2600 North, widen Washington north of the intersection and widen 2600 North east of Washington. Construction is slated to begin in the spring or summer of 2019.
A plan to widen Washington Boulevard all the way to 3100 North is also in the works, but that project has not been funded.
Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, said while he wasn’t immediately familiar with North Ogden’s growth needs or development strategy, increasing populations are an issue for most communities in the northern portion of the state.
Gruber said Utah has the fastest growing population in the country and much of that growth is centered along the Wasatch Front — an area bordered by mountains to the east and a lake to the west.
“There’s limited room to absorb that population growth,” he said.
While individual communities need to plan for growth, Gruber said there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing it and the region as a whole must provide a mix of housing options.
“Each community has to evaluate their own growth needs,” he said. “What kind of housing mix do they want to have? Are their demographics changing? Each community has to assess those things and take an approach that works best for them.”
Paul Baker, 41, has lived in North Ogden for most of his entire life. He currently owns a piece of land in the east-central portion of the city. Though he isn’t sure if or when he’ll build a home on the land, he’s certain he wants to live in the city long-term.
He says he has a realistic view on growth in his hometown.
“I think a lot of the growth comes from people who grew up here wanting to stay here,” Baker said. “I don’t want to leave North Ogden — this is just home to me. And I know a lot of other people who feel the same way, so I don’t think (growth) is going to stop any time soon.”
You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer/.
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