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Wolf Creek development flap centered on transfer of development rights

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 29, 2022
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The Wolf Creek Resort area in the Ogden Valley, north of Eden, photographed Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. A development plan in the area has sparked controversy.
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The Wolf Creek Resort area in the Ogden Valley off in the distance, north of Eden, photographed Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. A development plan in the area has sparked controversy.
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The Wolf Creek Resort area in the Ogden Valley off in the distance, north of Eden, photographed Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. A development plan in the area has sparked controversy.

EDEN — As yet another debate over development in the Ogden Valley unfolds, this one in the Wolf Creek Resort area, one of the points of dispute is transfer of development rights from one zone to another.

The broad aim in moving around development rights — there’s only a limited supply, meant to guard against runaway growth — is to preserve open space and focus housing in clusters. But where is it appropriate to take development rights and where is it appropriate to move them?

In the Wolf Creek case, resort owner John Lewis is proposing a shift of existing development rights to add housing to three areas of the development, located north of Eden’s core area along state Route 158, which leads to the Powder Mountain ski resort. Some neighbors take issue with plans to develop housing in just one of the three areas — Cobabe Ranch, south of an existing housing cluster called Trapper’s Ridge — and the rezone required to allow for the change has been a focus of the debate.

The foes aren’t anti-development, said Nico Vilgiate, one of the critics. Development can be a touchy subject in the Ogden Valley, a growing draw to outdoor enthusiasts that’s home to three ski resorts, Pineview Reservoir and pricey housing.

“What we don’t support is the upzoning, its location and its negative impact on our community. It’s not in the spirit of the Ogden Valley General Plan,” Vilgiate said.

As is, the current zoning allows for a total of 46 housing units on the two Cobabe Ranch parcels, measuring 176 acres, according to Ken Miller, another area resident who’s come out against the Cobabe Ranch plans.

But Lewis hopes for a rezone that would allow for 101 units, and that increase of 55 — tapping into the ability to transfer development rights from other areas — is the cause for the concern. The allowable number of housing units on one of the two parcels would increase from 16 to 83, including 68 condominiums and 15 homes.

The goal and vision of the Ogden Valley General Plan, the document that guides development in the area, “is to preserve open space,” Miller said. But allowing the rezone for the Cobabe Ranch area, he and Vilgiate argue, would go against that by adding housing to a wide open area that, in its undeveloped state, adds to the visual charm of the area.

Miller, a lawyer, has sent several letters to Weber County planners arguing his point.

“The transfer of development rights, as intended by the (general) plan, should be transferred from lower-density areas to higher-density areas, such as the resorts, form-based village zones and the Wolf Creek core, and not vice versa, as the applicant is proposing,” he wrote in one letter dated Sept. 1.

Miller said there are other areas more in the core of the Wolf Creek Resort where Lewis could add housing instead. Vilgiate, though, suspects the views in the Cobabe Ranch area and the correspondingly higher prices new homes in the area might fetch are behind the plans. “It’s all profit-driven. This has nothing to do with the spirit of the valley,” Vilgiate said.

Lewis declined comment, but Steven Burton, a planner in the Weber County Planning Division, noted that the current zoning on the Cobabe Ranch parcels allows for a new home only on every 3 to 5 acres. Keeping that zoning scheme would result in a new home every few acres, dotting a broad swath with scattered development. By contrast, clustering homes in closer proximity, even if there are more of them, would allow for preservation of larger swaths of open land.

Lewis “isn’t proposing to eliminate open space. He would be doing that if he platted 3-acre lots everywhere,” Burton said. Moreover, Burton said, Lewis contemplates other measures in line with the general plan — adding “essential public street infrastructure” and expanding sewer in other areas of the valley rather than relying on septic systems.

Burton also countered the critics’ contentions that Lewis proposes transferring development rights to an improper area.

“John’s developing within an area that will be part of the Wolf Creek village. Some of those in opposition do not understand that this is a future village area, where the general plan says units should be sent,” Burton said.

The Ogden Valley Planning Commission, an advisory body to Weber County Commissioners, voted 3-3 on whether to recommend the proposed rezone at a meeting last August and the measure fizzled. The planning commission discussed the matter at a work session on Tuesday but didn’t take formal action, Miller said.

Planning officials could formally take up the rezone question again in late October, Burton said. County commissioners would have ultimate say on the matter.

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