N. Ogden still a no-go on trails ordinance

Jan 15 2011 - 12:02am

NORTH OGDEN -- With questions raised about whether a trail ordinance constitutes illegal taking of property rights, the city council is looking for a way to recompense landowners who may be forced to take part in the trail system.

Several months ago, the parks and trails committee petitioned the city council to amend a subdivision ordinance so developers with property along the city's planned trail space would have to put the trail through the property at the developer's expense.

The degree of development would depend on where the land is in relation to the trail plan, which was added to the city's master plan in 1997.

Council members said the city can't force landowners to put a trail on their land.

However, members of the parks and trails committee, the city attorney and the city development director have all said it's constitutional because hiking is a mode of transportation.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, Development Director Craig Barker brought ordinances from 14 other area cities that have trail plans in their subdivision ordinance or have trails ordinances.

Many residents weighed in on the discussion.

"I think trails are great. I like trails, but I don't want the city to pay for it," said resident and planning commission member Dave Hulme.

He thinks developers should be given the right to develop trails the way they see fit.

Resident Tiffany Turner would like to see the trails developed. Her husband, Carl Turner, is on the city council and the parks and trails committee.

"North Ogden does not have to be the dead end of the trails system," she said.

She thinks the trails would be a draw for developers and potential home buyers. She suggested checking with other cities that have trails ordinances to see if they are being sued by developers.

Joel Grassmeyer, chairman of the parks and trails committee, said trails improve the way of life for residents and that, in local and national surveys, trails rank in the top three things people look for when buying a home and living in a community.

He also said businesses factor in trails when deciding whether to move to a city.

"The developer benefits. We are not taking land," Grassmeyer said. "I have lived in cities (that have) good trail systems and cities that don't. The difference in quality of life is significant."

Council members Ron Flamm, Wade Bigler and Brent Taylor said they were not quite ready to support the ordinance change.

Flamm would like to see more of a benefit to developers who develop trails; he'd also like to see residents help pay for the trails.

Taylor would like developers who have trails in their developments and those that don't to be treated fairly.

Bigler believes the whole idea of having a trails amendment in the subdivision ordinance is unconstitutional.

He said he called North Ogden business owners and none of them factored trails into their decision to locate in the city.

"I don't think we need trails for health and happiness," Bigler said. "It's not an issue of trails; it's an issue of taking personal property without compensation."

Councilwoman Martha Harris likes the idea of the trails amendment and would vote for it as it is, but didn't feel confident it would pass.

She suggested that developers could be compensated in several different ways if they are required to have trails on their property.

"I have discussed this with staff members, and I think there is a way we could sweeten the pot for developers," she said.

Barker agreed and said the use of bonuses, lot-reduction options and some standard changes could be added to the amendment for those developers.

Councilman Carl Turner expressed some frustration over the ordinance amendment not being passed yet. "I feel very passionate about what my committee is trying to accomplish."

He likes the idea of compensation, but also pointed out that many of the trail spots are unsuitable for homes anyway.

Barker agreed to look at adding some compensation options. The amendment would then go back to the planning commission and then return to the council.

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