Population growth and the development that accompanies it have long been big issues of debate and deliberation all along the Wasatch Front.
In 2020, the trend continued. Managing growth, creating pools of affordable housing and figuring out where to house all the newcomers to Weber County ranked as key issues this year. With Utah being the fastest-growing state in 2020, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data, the issues will likely be on the frontburner in 2021 and beyond.
The debate over whether to turn a large swath of unincorporated western Weber County into a new city ranked as perhaps the most public and contentious issue in 2020 related to growth and development here. A contingent from the area sought the change as a means of assuring local control over the direction and tone of growth in the zone.
But it wasn’t the only thing. Here’s a look at some of the growth and development issues in Weber County that emerged in 2020, some big, some small.
Proposition 18: The measure, on the November ballot, called for turning a 57-square-mile expanse west of Plain City, Marriott-Slaterville and West Haven into a new city, preliminarily called West Weber Community.
As is, Weber County commissioners govern the area. Passage of Proposition 18, though, would have resulted in creation of a locally elected mayor and city council, giving locals, proponents said, more power in charting the area’s future.
“What is our motivation? To grow our communities by coming together to govern ourselves. That is it. We want to govern ourselves and be the masters of our own destiny,” said Greg Bell, who helped spearhead the incorporation push, in the lead-up to Election Day on Nov. 3.
Critics, though, worried about creating a new governmental subdivision from scratch, among other things, and the debate between the two sides grew intense. Ultimately, the measure failed by a 56%-44% margin. Still, the debate over development in the area — characterized by alternating swaths of ag land and new housing subdivisions — simmers on.
Plain City annexation: In response to the Proposition 18 debate, a contingent of property owners on the west side of Plain City, within the expanse that would have become West Weber Community, asked to be annexed into Plain City instead.
Owners of some 360 parcels spread across perhaps 2,500-3,000 acres asked Plain City leaders to fold them into their community, in part driven by a stronger connection with the city than with the proposed locale.
“We shop up there,” said Scott Wayment, part of the contingent seeking annexation, and kids from the area go to school in Plain City. “It makes sense that we be in Plain City.”
However, a handful of property owners in the area to be annexed formally protested the move, and it was enough to halt the effort. News the annexation would fizzle came to light only after the Nov. 3 election.
Trash and recycling: With more people comes more trash, and how to contend with all that garbage emerged as an issue in many locales.
Weber County commissioners OKed contracts with private haulers to collect garbage in the unincorporated areas of the county, affecting more than 5,000 households. The deals, commissioners said, resulted in lower rates for the majority of residential customers, who previously had to contract directly with waste haulers for service.
Likewise, officials in West Haven, one of the fastest-growing Weber County cities, picked a garbage hauler to handle service in that locale, similarly lowering rates for most customers. The service won’t start until early 2021. Debate there had grown intense at times, with some initially leery of ceding control over selection of garbage haulers, and some leaders dubbed the debate “trash wars.”
Related to that, whether to keep recycling loomed big, with some cities opting to halt their programs, at least temporarily, due to rising costs brought on by the declining value of some recylables. Ogden, notably, halted its program, in part due to issues with the firm that processed the city’s recylables, though officials hope to relaunch it in 2021.
North Ogden ended its recycling program due to rising costs. Dipping costs of recylables has resulted in more and more of the materials from other Weber County cities ending up at landfills as well, according to David Rawson, owner of Recycled Earth, the Ogden-based recycler.
Internet: With more people comes more demand for fast internet, and some cities have recently started looking more closely at bolstering their fiber networks. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting jump in home internet use has also figured.
Representatives from UTOPIA Fiber, the community-owned fiber-optic network operator, made pitches to officials in North Ogden and South Ogden about installing new fiber networks in those locales to increase internet offerings. Ogden officials say they are also interested.
Several locales in Davis County made strides in 2020 in development of UTOPIA networks in their locales, including West Point, Layton and Clearfield. But the issue remains in the talking stage in Weber County.
Downtown Roy: Officials in Roy debated the future of the city’s commercial heart on-and-off throughout 2020.
Mayor Bob Dandoy, for one, is a big proponent of change, most notably of tweaking development guidelines along 1900 West between 5200 South and 5600 South to encourage new development. Broadly, the changes under discussion in Roy are meant to permit a mix of development in close proximity, like homes, offices and businesses. They also share the aim of reimagining the look and feel of the zone as property owners redevelop going forward.
Population growth: Plain City ranked as the fastest-growing city in Weber County, according to Census Bureau population figures for 2019 that were released last May.
Growth has been the trend “and I don’t see it slowing down,” Mayor Jon Beesley said. There’s a lot of open land around the city, he continued, and until it fills up “we’re going to continue to see that growth pattern.”
West Haven also ranks high in growth and in light of the expansion, city leaders hired a new city manager, Matthew Jensen, to help manage the growing city.