Byron White lives on an island in Weber County and he likes it just fine.
"I just wish they would leave us alone," he said.
After nearly two years of on-and-off debate, though, change could be coming — the unincorporated island inside Roy where he lives and five more could soon be annexed into the city, per a recommendation last year from Weber County officials.
The Roy Planning Commission meets Tuesday to consider new zoning designations for the six unincorporated pockets, meant to alleviate residents' concerns about becoming part of Roy. The 6 p.m. gathering will be held at Roy City Hall, 5051 S. 1900 West. Then on Oct. 16, the Roy City Council is scheduled to formally take action on the annexation question, potentially resolving the matter.
"I welcome them in... We feel they're Roy residents anyway. They have Roy addresses. They have Roy zip codes," said Mayor Bob Dandoy. If officials approve annexation, the six islands would formally become part of Roy on Jan. 1, 2019.
The six unincorporated pockets, between them, contain 188 separate parcels, with the two most densely populated islands — off 3500 West between 5600 South and 4950 South — accounting for 164 of the total. The pockets, largely developed residential areas, meld seamlessly into Roy though they aren't technically part of the city and are home to 300 to 500 people, Dandoy estimates.
With such a population count, the prospect of annexation has been a thorny and delicate issue, and many have spoken out against the notion dating to at least the fall of 2016, when an earlier annexation effort fizzled. To address some of the complaints, city officials plan to adopt zoning ordinances for the six islands similar to the existing Weber County zoning guidelines applicable to the land. That means the impacted residents will be able to keep using their property as current guidelines allow, whether that means keeping chickens or operating home-based businesses.
"I don't have any concerns. I wish they would've done it a long time ago," said Roger Bute, an island resident who's fine with the change. Weber County government officials, who now have jurisdiction over unincorporated areas, pay limited attention to the island pockets, he said, and with annexation, he expects increased attention from Roy city officials.
Others, though, aren't so eager, and having to pay property taxes to the city of Roy seems to be a particular sore point. Property owners in areas annexed will no longer have to pay Weber Fire District or unincorporated services fund property taxes to Weber County, but having to pay city taxes will still boost overall taxes on a $215,000 home, the average, by around $84 a year, the city estimates.
"I'm not crazy about being annexed. I just don't feel like the city offers that much more than what we're getting," said Carolyn Jacklin, who's lived in her unincorporated neighborhood along 5350 South for 39 years. "Just not excited about it."
POLICE, FIRE, STREETS, SNOW
Ahead of the planned meetings on the annexation issue, Roy held a town hall gathering on Aug. 28 to get feedback from the public. City officials fielded numerous queries, but in the end, most in attendance seemed to be "pretty pleased," Dandoy said.
The Roy fire and police departments will take over responsibility of fire and police protection from the Weber Fire District and Weber County Sheriff's Office in the six islands should annexation move forward. Likewise, the city will take over maintenance of streets, snow plowing and potentially be able to install street lights in the neighborhoods.
"We'll do everything we can to make them feel welcome, feel part of the city," Dandoy said.
Whatever the case, the situation still prompts mixed sentiments.
"Roy city wants to help us make the best out of an unfortunate situation, and they are permanently changing Roy city zoning to give us that peace of mind, and to begin to (re)gain our trust," reads a flier on the issue. It was prepared by island residents who have closely followed the matter, lobbying on behalf of residents.
Gabe Archuleta, who's lived on an unincorporated section of 5350 South for 36 years, tries to see the bright side of things — annexation will result in more efficient snow plowing and potentially quicker fire and police response times. But he's not totally sold, and figures at this stage, he has no choice but to accept change.
"I'm just worried about our taxes," he said. "I think it's a done deal... I think it's cut and dried."
Jacklin, too, is resigned, alluding to last October's Weber County Commission decision recommending that Roy annex the six unincorporated plots.
"The county doesn't want us. So what are we going to do?" she said.