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Council reacts to development proposal

Article Date: 
29 March, 2013 (All day)

The Morgan County Council is voicing their opinions on development plans dubbed the Mountain Green Village.
“A residence does not pay for itself,” Councilman Robert Kilmer said.  “How does the county balance the need to allow a property owner the right to develop versus other property owners’ tax bill they get every year?  The cost is spread out to the entire community.  Everyone has to pay a little bit so a developer can make his profit.”
The 105.6 acres at 4985 W. Old Highway Road, or the intersection of Old Highway Road and Trappers Loop Road, is currently zoned Central Development (CD), which requires a development agreement with the county as well as a master plan.  
Stephen G. McCutchan, a land planner and urban designer at Blu Line Designs, said the land is well suited for development because of its long frontage along Old Highway and exposure to Interstate 84.
Plans, which are considered “mixed use” for incorporating both commercial and residential uses, include 3.1 acres for a hotel directly across Old Highway Road from Old Farm Sinclair gas station.  The developer also has hopes for a “small neighborhood market of 40,000 to 50,000 square feet, much like Ridley’s,” McCutchan said.
Councilman Austin Turner expressed support of a hotel in the area.
“The majority of people who hit Snowbasin come through our county,” Turner said.  “They area already driving past.”
The planning commission previously recommended approving up to 533 living units, which could include multifamily, town homes and detached single family homes.  According to a development agreement being drafted, the homes would conform to a “mountain home” architectural theme.
Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley said the theme is more in keeping with the character of the community compared to the “American farm house” theme previously proposed by the developer.
County Planner Charlie Ewert said that while developer Dewayne Johnson’s initial plans for the development may not follow the Mountain Green area plan, they are permitted under the CD zone.  The property was zoned CD in 2006.  So far, development plans submitted to the county are very generalized and lack some specificity, including phasing plans.
“There is a level of nonspecificity at this time,” Ewert said.  “I have never lookd at a master plan as flexible as this one.”
Such flexibility allows the real estate market govern development, McCutchan said.
 “The housing recession is pretty well over and the development economy in general is coming back,” McCutchan said.  McCutchan predicted more specific development applications in the next year or two for the proposed area.  “The economy is picking itself up.  Giving the amount of development going in in Mountain Green, you will see someone willing to do commercial in a five- to 10-year period.  There is a need for commercial in Mountain Green.  Had the recession not occurred, you would have already seen a lot more commercial.”
Councilman Daryl Ballantyne said building on this development would have happened five years ago if not for the recession
Some council members said they would rather see commercial development come in before residential development.
“Over the years, especially the last 10 to 15, the county has allowed some massive developments with almost zero commercial to support it.  In my opinion, this is just a bunch more of that,” Kilmer said.  “Every time we let one of these in with a lot of houses and very little commercial, they are not paying their way and the current residents are picking up the tab.  I have a lot of grief allowing this same type of thing to continue.”
McCutchan said the project includes 26.6 percent of open space, well over the 20 percent overall required by the county.  The open space would be in pocket parks, creek areas, a detention basin and under power lines.
The proposal also leaves room for a future interstate interchange that could cost up to $40 million.  However, since the project is so far down on UDOT’s priority list, Jody Burnett, attorney for Morgan County, warns that the developer may not be able to preserve the area indefinitely.  Burnett said the applicant would preserve the area for five years.
“We can’t preserve a corridor indefinitely,” Burnett said.  “There will come a point in time we have to cut it loose.”
McCutchan said he anticipates a widening of Old Highway Road in front of the property.
Kelley, Kilmer and Councilman Ned Mecham discussed the availability of water and sewer for the development.  Kelley said the Mountain Green Sewer Improvement District has plans in place for expansion, and that development will move only as fast as the sewer district does.
“You can’t create water out of thin air,” Kilmer said.  “I would encourage members of the Highland Water Company to look closely at this and make sure they have the ability to keep up with this.  Take a long, hard look before you start to promise water.  The county is not in the water or sewer business.”
Kilmer mentioned the water restrictions in the Highlands last summer.
Johnson would like to solidify a development agreement with the county as early as the mid-April.  The development agreement would be on the county council’s regular agenda.