The empty field west of Lyle and Lynne Cottle’s home, now used to grow hay and alfalfa, could become something dramatically different — a small lake and higher-end housing development catering to water skiers.
“To build homes, no one would have a concern. It’s that water would be there that concerns everybody,” said Lyle Cottle, as a tractor worked the land off in the distance. Would water escape the lake basin, impacting surrounding land?
The western Weber County proposal, off the northwest corner of 1800 South and 4075 West in an area with a long agricultural tradition, is still in the preliminary stages. But if it moves forward, it would reflect a new sort of development in the growing area, something beyond the traditional housing subdivisions that are more the norm. Tylor Brenchley, of Wakeless Holdings, which is pursuing the project, sees it as a way of catering to another market niche.
“It really is going to be a little oasis,” he said.
Per the plans, still subject to review by the Western Weber Planning Commission, the undeveloped field west of the existing housing subdivision where the Cottles live would be excavated to make way for an oval-shaped, 13-acre lake. Twenty-eight homes on lots measuring slightly under an acre, on average, would take shape around the water, meant for skiing and other water activities.
The plans echo a similar development in Syracuse approved by officials there in 2015, Still Water Lake Estates, a cluster of homes around two man-made lakes meant for skiing. As other public lakes and reservoirs draw more and more visitors, Brenchley aims to create a place — dubbed Halcyon Lake Estates — where those who enjoy water can have their own retreat. With the water access, lots would probably cost more than the norm, he said, appealing to families with deeper pockets.
His idyllic characterizations notwithstanding, not everybody is enamored with the idea. Several area residents spoke out at a planning commission meeting last month when the proposal came up, including Dean Martini, a western Weber County farmer.
Food production is more important than a ski area, he said. Brenchley’s plans, he went on, are “absurd.”
Martini and other critics worry, most notably, about seepage from the lake, saying water, if it escapes the basin, could damage adjacent cropland. Even though he doesn’t have farmland, Cottle too worries about the water, fears it could seep into his home’s basement.
As is, he has a basement sump pump that has had to work overtime in recent weeks to contend with rain, snowmelt and other groundwater. If the lake is added, he fears seepage could overwhelm the capacity of his home’s system. On the other hand, maybe the lake would draw groundwater, minimizing the work his sump pump has to do. But Cottle just doesn’t know for sure.
Brenchley says the neighbors’ concerns about seepage are unfounded, and he plans to address the issues that emerged at the May 14 planning commission at the body’s next meeting on June 11. The commission, an advisory body to the Weber County Commission, will take up whether to recommend preliminary approval of the plans to county commissioners.
What’s more, he doesn’t think Halcyon Lake Estates will be disruptive. Investors are lined up, and if the plans get the green light, lake excavation could start in 2020.
“We’re not shoving a lot of people in an area and disrupting the environment out there,” Brenchley said.
The controversy represents a twist in the more common debate about development in western Weber County — how many homes to allow, how to protect the rural feel of the area. Still, even if the proposal for a lake adds a twist, concerns surrounding continued growth in the area, a sore point for many who worry about overdevelopment, underlie it all.
The Cottles have lived in the area for 19 years and Lyle Cottle expressed resignation at the notion of continued growth. “We know it’s coming. We’re not excited about it,” he said.