WEST HAVEN — Kim Dixon always figured the open farm field east of her West Haven home would be developed.
But the scope of a proposal in the works — 186 single-family homes plus 70 more town houses — has left her and other neighbors reeling, worried about an excessive influx of people and traffic. “We are not against development,” she said, “but this is insanity.”
The proposed density of the development in the relatively rural area off 1800 South in northern West Haven counters the bucolic place envisioned by leaders when the city incorporated in 1991, aiming to fend off annexation by Roy, Dixon said. “We’ve turned into our biggest nightmare,” she said.
And it’s turned her into an activist, got her spearheading critics’ efforts to slow down the plans. She reckons the development, as proposed, could bring in more than 1,700 people, and reducing the proposed count of 256 housing units is a central prong of the efforts.
Conversion of open land into new housing subdivisions has been an ongoing point of contention in the unincorporated corners of western Weber County, pitting developers against landowners hoping to preserve the area’s rural character. As shown by the concerns of Dixon and others in her West Haven group — some living on relatively large acre-sized plots — the same debate is alive and well in the zone’s cities, where some of the fastest growth in the county is occurring.
“Obviously, everyone wishes the field next to them would never get developed,” said Sharon Bolos, the West Haven mayor.
But more and more are having to come to terms with the prospect of new subdivisions popping up in their backyards. West Haven ranked as the fastest-growing city in Weber County between 2010 and 2017, growing in population by 31.7 percent, from 10,272 to 13,532 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
And city officials can’t just stop developers if they’re complying with zoning rules and other regulations. “We’re trying to allow them to exercise their property rights and at the same time plan our city,” Bolos said.
Bolos said the developer of the West Haven land, Ivory Homes, has been following city regulations, though the land still must be rezoned. But Dixon charges that the mixed-use zoning regulation that would apply to the plot in question is too vague and broad, giving developers too much leeway. She’s asking in a petition that city leaders take a closer look at the regulation and calling on officials to hold off on their rezone pending an update of the rule.
A rep from Ivory Homes, still in the process of acquiring the land for the proposed development, didn’t immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.
AN ELECTION ISSUE
The 256 proposed homes and town houses would be built on a 69-acre plot off the northeast corner of 1800 South and 2350 West. But per the proposal, Ivory Homes would hand 36 acres of less developable land over to the city for conversion into a park, building the homes on the remaining 33 acres.
“The chance to get a public park up there is a big deal,” Bolos said, noting city surveys indicating demand for such a facility in the northern part of West Haven. She asks the critics “to understand what we’re trying to create up there.”
The West Haven Planning Commission, for its part, tabled action on the needed rezone in August amid questions about some of the plan particulars. But in a meeting late last month, the body launched a review of the mixed-use regulation applicable to the Ivory Homes proposal “to make it less ambiguous,” according to minutes from the gathering. New applicants for mixed-use zoning “will have to adhere to the new standards once they are agreed upon,” the minutes read, though it’s not clear if any change would apply to the Ivory Homes plan.
Meantime, Dixon is exploring legal options, not letting up. Depending on how city officials ultimately act, she also hints it could become an issue in city elections next year. Three members of the West Haven City Council — which would have final say on the issue — will be up for re-election.
But she holds out hope for a compromise — development, perhaps, but on a lesser scale than proposed.
“We don’t need to house the whole world,” Dixon said. “What do we want for our city?”