WEST HAVEN — West Haven Mayor Sharon Bolos gets the question a lot — can’t city officials do something to slow the rate of growth in the burgeoning city?
Inevitably, her answer — usually not what questioners want to hear — is the same: no. People have the right to develop their property, as long as they follow the city’s zoning and land-use rules.
“You can’t slow it down. You can just plan for it,” she said.
The regular query has a solid basis — new U.S. Census Bureau population estimates for the nation’s cities are out, and the figures show that West Haven leads the way in growth in Weber County, by a wide margin. Notably, it was also the third-fastest growing locale statewide among Utah’s 247 incorporated places in the period covered, from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018.
But West Haven isn’t alone.
Though the city far outpaces Weber County’s other cities in attracting new residents, the other cities on the western and northern periphery of the county’s population cluster along Interstate 15 and U.S. 89, also experienced notable growth. In fact, they were higher than the overall average for Utah’s incorporated places by 1.9%. Except for Huntsville, where the population held steady, all Weber County cities grew.
Here are the estimates for Weber County’s 15 towns and cities, showing the population change from 2017 to 2018:
West Haven, up 12.6% from 13,533 to 15,239, an increase of 1,706. West Haven was also the fastest-growing city in Weber County between 2016 and 2017.
Plain City, up 5.3% from 6,759 to 7,120, an increase of 361.
Pleasant View, up 4.4% from 10,284 to 10,734, an increase of 450.
Marriott-Slaterville, up 3.5%, from 1,785 to 1,847, an increase of 62.
Hooper, up 3.1%, from 8,673 to 8,938, an increase of 265.
Farr West, up 2.9%, from 7,000 to 7,206, an increase of 206.
North Ogden, up 2.7%, from 19,483 to 20,009, an increase of 526.
Harrisville, up 2.5%, from 6,535 to 6,696, an increase of 161.
Roy, up 0.3% from 38,645 to 38,773, an increase of 128.
Washington Terrace, up 0.3%, from 9,157 to 9,187, an increase of 30.
Ogden, up 0.3%, from 87,072 to 87,325, an increase of 253.
Riverdale, up 0.3%, from 8,761 to 8,785, an increase of 24.
South Ogden, up 0.2%, from 17,108 to 17,146, an increase of 38.
Uintah, up 0.1%, from 1,341 to 1,342, an increase of one.
Huntsville, no change at 638.
The cities with the highest rates of growth — West Haven, Plain City, Pleasant View, Marriott-Slaterville, Hooper, Farr West, North Ogden and Harrisville — sit where open space remains, on the western and northern edges of the county’s population center. On the flip side, those with the lowest growth — Roy, Washington Terrace, Ogden, Riverdale, South Ogden and Uintah — are more hemmed in, either by other cities or the mountains of the Wasatch Front.
Statewide, West Haven’s growth rate trailed only Vineyard on the northeastern shore of Utah Lake, which grew by 62.8 percent, and Herriman in Salt Lake County, up 14.4 percent.
‘GROW WITH INTELLIGENCE’
Bolos suspects part of the reason for West Haven’s growth stems, in part, from its location near Hill Air Force Base, a major area employer. She also cited the open spaces in the city and its relative proximity to the larger urban population center along I-15, heading south toward Salt Lake City. As undeveloped parcels fill in, she suspects the pace of growth will probably increase further north in Weber County.
For now, though, the rapid growth in West Haven is omnipresent. “We definitely are seeing the houses going in. All areas of our community are growing rapidly,” she said.
And it’s got some worried. “There is a lot of concern we’re losing the small-town feel,” Bolos said.
She maintains that city leaders are limited in trying to put brakes on the growth. They can’t stop property owners from selling their land, and more and more, owners of what was open farmland are selling as they age and ready for retirement. Developers, in turn, are gobbling up the real estate to make way for homes.
Officials can try to plan for the growth, and Bolos said they have, in part through updates to land-use ordinances. Significantly, the city has also secured commitments from developers of two subdivisions to include open space within their developments for parks. In talking with leaders from other Weber County cities, she’s found that the arrangements are fairly unique.
Even so, West Haven resident Kim Dixon, for one, has her doubts. She lives near an empty field that’s to become a new subdivision and after she and other neighbors clamored, the developer agreed late last year to reduce the number of units to be built on the land, from 256 to 205.
“We want to grow, we just want to grow with intelligence,” Dixon said.
She thinks more can be done to change land-use ordinances to get a handle on the growth and worries about becoming a generic sprawl of homes.
“Instead of rooftops, we would like to build a community,” she said. The open land she still sees around West Haven, she worries, “will be gone before we know it.”