LAYTON -- A pair of land referendum questions, dealing with a development proposal on the city's west side, will say a lot about the quality of life for residents in this community in the future, as well as mark a historic first for city voters.
It's been 38 years since a land referendum has come before voters in the state of Utah, and most are sure they've never been up for vote in this community.
The land issues, known as Proposition No. 2 and Proposition No. 3, challenge the West Layton plan policy change for 107 acres of farmland on the city's west side and the adoption of an urban development code needed to create the urban community, known as West Layton Village, under the new policy. The property runs along Hill Field Road between 2200 West and 2700 West.
Brian Pead, one of the key organizers of Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton who collected the necessary signatures to place the issues on the ballot, said the reason the issue has come to this point is simple: city leaders didn't listen to resident input.
"It's so radical a change. We said 'let's talk,' but it never happened. It made us even more upset. We met with them and they made a few minor changes. What we wanted to talk about was the big issue," Pead said.
That big issue is a development proposal Pead and others suggest simply doesn't fit into the landscape of the west side. They claim the project will make traffic problems along Hill Field Road worse, change the character of the neighborhood and pave the way for the city to become a heavily urbanized area.
The property in question is owned by PRI, the real estate wing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. PRI officials say the property will not remain as farmland and will be developed, whether or not the village center concept is voted down. PRI and the city combined to hire a consultant, PlaceMakers, three years ago to initiate the development process.
Local representatives paint a picture of the village concept as a chance to be visionary in looking to future development on the city's west side, creating a blueprint for a development with a village feel that blends office, commercial and a variety of housing options into the targeted area.
Pead says using Daybreak -- which is the closest development in the region to the West Village concept -- as an example has shown that special mixed used applications in a neighborhood concept don't necessarily add up to a positive. He said the Salt Lake development has ended up to be a lot of apartment buildings, with vacant businesses.
He maintains neighbors in the area know the property will be developed, but they want a say in how that is done.
"We would prefer it would be houses but we're not naive enough to say it won't be developed. The church has a perfect right to use their land any way the zoning will allow," Pead said. "We're not hateful, demonic human beings, we're just concerned about our neighborhood and we're concerned about the quality of life."
City leaders have maintained the new zoning requirements to pull off a village concept are so detailed and restrictive that the project will be limited in its appeal to many developers. Mayor Steve Curtis said if the form-based codes are voted down, they won't be allowed for use anywhere in the city in the future.
Curtis urged voters to spend some time considering the referendum questions, which he suggest deal with generational questions.
The form-based codes allow city leaders to be much more up front with what any development proposal will look like, according to Bill Wright, community and economic development director. Wright described the code as scripted guidelines on what type of buildings would be allowed, specific streetscape guidelines and a blending of different mixed uses.
Councilman Jory Francis lives within a stone's throw of the projected development area and he said he hopes emotion will be taken out of the land issues and people will be fair in looking at the property's projected use.
He said he is not offended that council action is being challenged through a public vote.
"I like the process of the public being able to overturn a vote," Francis said. He claimed city leaders were very responsible in listening to resident concerns before the proposals were approved in April. He noted 16 major changes in the proposal because of citizen input.