Ogden contingent mulls petition drive to halt city housing initiative
OGDEN — Jase Reyneveld doesn’t think the City of Ogden should get involved in the business of developing land.
With the March decision of city leaders to acquire a 6.55-acre parcel so perhaps 26 homes can be built on the land, though, he thinks the city is moving yet again in that direction. “They’re cutting off the private market from taking a shot at the land and developing it,” he said.
Accordingly, he and four other Ogden residents have launched a bid to reverse the resolution the Ogden City Council approved on March 7 calling for use of $1.08 million in Quality Neighborhoods Initiative funds to buy the land from the Ogden School District. The proposal calls for the city to oversee development of the land at 605 N. Jackson Ave., once acquired, and the subsequent sale of the 26 or so homes to be built.
For now, Reyneveld isn’t sure how aggressively he and others involved will pursue the matter. They’d have to collect signatures from 2,617 registered Ogden voters by May 25 on petitions calling for a vote on the matter, thereby putting the question of whether to uphold or reverse the March 7 measure on the ballot. Then, presuming the question gets on the ballot, it would be up to the voters to decide, probably in November elections.
At any rate, if Reyneveld and the others get the question on the ballot and voters rescind Resolution 2023-7, the March 7 measure, it would only counter the decision to use Quality Neighborhoods Initiative money to buy the land, he said. Ogden’s Quality Neighborhoods Initiative is meant to “stabilize and revitalize” Ogden neighborhoods.
The city could tap another funding source to move ahead with the acquisition of the land in question if Resolution 2023-7 were ultimately reversed. As such, Reyneveld questions whether it’s worth the effort to move forward, and he and the others involved are weighing their options.
Either way, he’s adamant on the subject of tapping city resources for housing and other development projects. Cities and other governmental units ought to steer clear of such action, he believes. He had also mulled seeking a ballot question on the city’s Jan. 10 decision to bond for up to $75 million to help with the mixed-use WonderBlock development project in the city center on the same grounds.
Aiding the private sector in development isn’t a “core role of government. … I just don’t see why this stuff needs to be subsidized by the taxpayers,” he said. Rather, in his view, if a project can’t stand on its own without financial assistance or involvement from the government, maybe it’s not viable and shouldn’t be pursued.
The petitioners’ viewpoint is spelled out in a formal position paper they formulated as part of the challenge process. Resolution 2023-7 “represents a continuation of the persistent ‘developer mindset’ of Ogden City Corporation and the growing burden of public debt being placed on the backs of Ogden City residents,” the position paper reads.
On the flip side, Mark Johnson, chief administrative officer for Ogden, says the city needs to strike a balance between assisting in certain development projects, depending on the circumstances, and leaving development to the private sector.
“Sometimes the city has to step in to get a different type of housing and maybe a different quality,” he said. That is, many private developers are pursuing apartment and townhome projects in Ogden, but not as many affordable single-family homes — as proposed at 605 N. Jackson Ave. Maybe the city can play a role in countering the trend, local leaders’ thinking goes.
The city spelled out its viewpoint in its own position paper.
“Without city investment in this type of development, it is possible that properties would remain vacant, blighted or be developed into multi-family rental units,” the document reads. The area around 605 N. Jackson Ave. faces “challenges related to neglect and deterioration,” it continues, and is an “ideal location” for investment of Quality Neighborhoods Initiative funds.
Angela Choberka, chairperson of the Ogden City Council, said the issues brought up by Reyneveld are part of an ongoing debate at City Hall about Ogden’s role in development. Whatever the case, she noted that Resolution 2023-7, which passed on a unanimous 7-0 vote, represented a compromise when the city was debating acquisition of four parcels of Ogden School District land.
“I felt it was a good compromise,” she said.
The administration of Mayor Mike Caldwell had initially wanted to acquire three parcels for city-led housing development projects, leaving the fourth to the private sector.
Some City Council members weren’t so sure, and the scheme that ultimately moved forward called for acquisition of one parcel for housing development, the 605 N. Jackson Ave. land, and acquisition of another 5.87-acre parcel at 625 Grant Ave. for conversion into park space. The city opted out of acquiring the other two parcels, including the 5.15-acre ex-Grandview Elementary property at 3865 Jackson Ave.
Separately, another big point of discussion as the city has weighed whether to acquire the four Ogden School District properties has been the amount of park space in the city. A vocal contingent led by Steve Van Wagoner of Ogden Soccer, a youth soccer organization, had lobbied for the city to acquire all four parcels for conversion into parks and other open public space.