WEST WEBER — For about five years, Brad Blanch has pushed to convert his vision of an agriculture-friendly housing development in western Weber County to reality.
Finally, dirt is moving on the first phase of the plans and the initial homes should start taking shape in June. “It’s been a long haul,” Blanch said.
Indeed, growth is a hot topic in western Weber County and beyond as demand for housing surges and developers look for open space to build homes to accommodate them. The debate has been compounded in western Weber County by calls from many to preserve the agricultural heritage and country feel of the area as more and more people move in. On that count, Blanch thinks he’s reached a balance.
About half of the 60-acre Barn at Terakee Farm development taking shape in an undeveloped field north of 900 South and east of 4700 West will be set aside as permanent open space, aiming to preserve undeveloped tracts in the area. On the other 30 or so acres, 36 homes are taking shape as part of the first phase of the project now commencing, and all the lots are already claimed. An additional 43 homes are planned on top of that, or 79 in all, as well as an assisted-living facility.
“Instead of building a golf course and living around it, you’re living around a low-impact agricultural farm,” Blanch said. He calls it an “agrihood,” combining a residential subdivision with agricultural characteristics, and says it will be the first of its type in Utah. The land sits in the West Weber area just west of West Weber Elementary School.
As new subdivisions pop up in western Weber County, creating an increasingly suburban feel in some pockets, Blanch, whose family roots in the area are deep, maintains that he’s taking a different approach. His aim isn’t to jam as many homes onto his land as possible, the motivation, he charges, of other outside developers.
“I say this with 1,000% confidence — (outside developers) don’t care about open space. They just want to build houses and move on,” he said.
He, by contrast, aims to be mindful of the agricultural heritage of western Weber County. A red barn-like structure sits on the 30 or so acres to be left largely open as part of the Barn at Terakee Farm project and it will be used as a community gathering spot. Otherwise, the open land will likely be set aside for grazing by farm animals and garden plots for those living in the subdivision. Blanch also envisions walking paths through the land, perhaps alfalfa crops too.
The homes, meantime, will be built on plots measuring a quarter- to a third-acre. The style will replicate farmhouses and they’ll feature porches.
“We think we’re doing our part to be good citizens here,” Blanch said. Continued development is inevitable, and he thinks he’s found a formula to balance the varied interests.
Still, it’s been a rocky road at times.
His efforts to get the permits and approvals he’s needed for his Terakee Farm plans have been met with resistance at times. At an April 2017 Weber County Commission meeting focused on his plans, several area residents spoke out in opposition, worried about new development. “We need the farms, Weber County needs the farms; that’s what Weber County was all about. And I ask you to keep it a farm community and not let them turn it into a city,” one man said to applause at the meeting, according to Standard-Examiner archives.
Blanch has another development proposal in the works about 2 miles northeast of Barn at Terakee Farm, and that initiative — River at Terakee Farm — has been stymied by issues over development of the narrow rural road connecting to the site. The road, 3600 West north of 400 South, needs to be widened to accommodate the increased vehicle traffic the development would create, but some landowners there have resisted Weber County’s efforts to acquire the property needed to allow for the upgrade.
Blanch thinks part of the resistance stems from his proposal. The River at Terakee Farm plans, to be built north and east of where 3600 North ends north of 400 South, ultimately call for 206 residential units spread over 90 acres with another 70 acres of land to remain open.
Some of the project foes “want West Weber to stay exactly as it is,” he said.
Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer senses that sort of attitude. Commissioners last month approved hiring of a law firm to help with eminent domain proceedings to get the land needed to widen 3600 West, though four holdouts now seem close to reaching a deal to sell the property sought.
“You’ve got people out there who have been enjoying their country lifestyle with few neighbors. ... Then this comes in and it’s a major development,” Froerer said. “People get upset when there’s development. It changes the neighborhood. It changes the traffic.”
But at the same time, landowners like Blanch have their property rights and, echoing Blanch, Froerer noted the push and demand for more housing. “The state’s growing. The county’s growing. We just have to understand development has to take place,” Froerer said.