NORTH OGDEN — Plans to dramatically overhaul the look of Washington Boulevard in North Ogden — pushing buildings closer to the road, making it more of a draw to pedestrians — now rest on shaky ground.
The North Ogden Planning Commission, an advisory group to the North Ogden City Council, is recommending against adoption of form-based codes, changes to zoning regulations that would alter the look of development along the thoroughfare. The issue has been a topic of debate since at least 2016, and, more recently, the city council adopted form-based code guidelines on a trial basis in December, pending a decision on whether to implement them permanently.
The unanimous planning commission recommendation, at a May 15 meeting, now goes to the city council, which will likely take the issue up at the body’s planned meeting next Tuesday, according to Jon Call, the North Ogden city attorney.
Developers and landowners who addressed the planning commission expressed doubt that the development scheme would work in North Ogden, Call said. As is, Washington Boulevard is a mix of homes, undeveloped land and strip malls, with most buildings sitting back from the street.
If the city council goes along with the planning commission and rejects change, zoning rules in effect before last December’s preliminary change would govern. “It would be traditional car-based development,” Call said.
Broadly, the aim of form-based development is to create a distinctive look and feel that draws visitors and encourages pedestrian traffic. Buildings sit closer to the street, while sidewalks are wider and may contain flourishes like benches and flower containers. The North Ogden proposal would have potentially impacted Washington Boulevard from 2600 North to 1500 North.
The council, when it takes up the issue, has leeway to act as it sees fit. Council members can accept, reject or modify the form-based code proposal.
In fact, some planning commissioners expressed support for moving forward with some of the changes discussed, Call said. Making sidewalks wider to accommodate pedestrians and adding other streetscape flourishes, for instance, seem to have the backing of some.
North Ogden resident Randy Winn, a retired retail manager, has long expressed skepticism about implementing form-based codes in North Ogden. Such development is more fitting for a tourist destination he believes, like Park City, where small boutique stores flourish. Implementing such change in North Ogden, without demand for such outlets, could scare off other retailers, like fast-food franchises or auto parts stores because of the potential cost of complying with the proposed guidelines.
“It’s a neat concept and I think our community leaders got pulled into how it looks really neat,” Winn said. “But it’s just not practical for most cities.”
According to a 2015 city report, among a slew of documents on the issue collected by North Ogden resident Stefanie Casey, the goal of exploring form-based development was to figure out “how to establish a true downtown” in North Ogden.
The city’s core commercial area “has the potential to become the center place for the city where there are community events, places to work, shop, recreate, walk and live,” reads the report, which outlines steps to follow in determining whether to adopt form-based codes.