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Rezone wave part of recent trend to settle estates

Article Date: 
9 May, 2014 (All day)

As the economy improves, Morgan land owners are “getting their estates in order” and visiting the planning and development offices for rezones.
County Planning Technician and long-time Morgan resident Ronda Kippen said the May 6 County Council agenda included more rezones than her office has seen in the last four years.
“People are wanting to settle their estates,” Kippen said.  “People are looking at what their property is worth, what the future uses are worth.  We are going to start seeing more of these.”
Kippen noted that rezoning property often maximizes its use.
She said she is already aware of four Porterville landowners who want to rezone their property in an effort to settle their estates.
May 6’s agenda included rezone requests from the Whittiers for 74.93 acres at 4000 N. Morgan Valley Drive in Peterson; and the Vern Young Revocable Trust for 6.54 acres near 3800 West in Peterson.  Although not technically a rezone, Fitzgerald was on the same agenda to amend the future land use map to make way for rezoning 31.71 acres in Milton.
“I’m having a hard time swallowing all these half-acre rezones on our agenda tonight,” County Councilman Robert Kilmer said.  “The rural area of our county isn’t set to handle this kind of density.  We have seen that across the freeway (in Mountain Green).  It is just hard to see when we don’t really have that much infrastructure.”
However, this is what Peterson area residents envisioned for their community when they sat as an area plan committee years ago, Councilwoman Tina Kelley said.
“The area plan committee met and involved the Peterson community.  This is what they said would be advisable for that community,” Kelley said.  “I give credence to area plans.”
Whittier rezone 
The County Council unanimously approved to rezone 74.93 acres of the Whittier property at 4000 N. Morgan Valley Drive from agricultural 20 acres to rural residential one acre and residential half-acre lots.
The Whittiers are looking to sell their property, and with the help of real estate broker Blair Gardner have already found a willing buyer.  The Whittiers began discussing their rezone intent with county staff eight months ago, and designed their request based on the future land use map of the county’s general plan.  
While cold, hard numbers would suggest the rezone would make way for as many as 105 homes, property limitations—such as floodplain, well head protection, easements, slope and frontage—would scale back the number of lots to between 40 and 60, Kippen said.
“When residents heard 40 to 60 homes, they were O.K. with that,” Kippen said.  “But when you start calculating density based on acreage alone, it started to really scare people and cause a little bit of concern.”
Peterson resident and former planning commissioner Trevor Kobe voiced his concerns.
“It would double the number of homes in Peterson,” Kobe said.  “My question is that of timing, when it doubles the growth rate of the community and impacts the lifestyle of those who live there.  It is a big enough change for Peterson that many members are interested in hearing the conversation and following up with you.”
Kobe suggested the county ask the applicant to enter into a development agreement to better control the character of new growth.  That is definitely something Gardner said his clients, both buyer and seller, are willing to look into.
“Phasing is an essential part to this project, the smartest scenario,” Gardner said.  “it is not coming all at once.  It will come in pieces.”  
Gardner said he expects the property to yield only about 55 building lots.  His clients are already in the process of researching the water table in the area and identifying the site of a secondary well for the Peterson Pipeline.
He said very preliminary plans call for open space, a walking trail, a homeowners association and public roads.
Vern Young rezone granted
The council unanimously approved the Young property rezone, officially changing 6.54 acres from the agricultural 20 acre zone to the R1-20 zone, or residential half acre.  The council noted that the rezone was harmonious with the future land use map of the general plan and did not cause a negative impact on community.  While technically the rezone could allow for up to six more homes, reality is only up to four additional homes could be built on the property, Kippen said.
Rezoning does not guarantee new homes will be built, Kippen said.  Rather, it opens the door for an applicant to come forward and “try for” additional lots.  Questions such as water usage, needed infrastructure, health department approval, traffic impact and access are answered at stages later in the development process.
Kippen explained that at concept review, a rough view of an applicant’s plans are discussed.  At preliminary approval, water and sewer issues are resolved.
This is not the first time the County Council has considered this rezone.  It was on the agenda five years ago, when several Peterson landowners combined forces and applied for a rezone en masse.  At that time, the council asked each land owner to come forward individually for separate rezone consideration.  
Fitzgerald general plan map amendment denied
In a close vote, the county council denied changing the county general plan future land use map to make way for rezoning of 31.71 acres in Milton to one-acre lots.  
If the applicant had succeeded in amending the land use map and rezoning his property, it could have made way for seven new homes, Kippen said.  If access problems could be alleviated, the property has the potential for as many as 30 one-acre lots, she said.
Greg Fitzgerald intended to rezone his property form agricultural to rural residential one-acre lots.  Only hundreds of feet away from what has been identified as a higher density growth area of Milton, Fitzgerald had hoped the council would make a change to allow ranch style homes on his property.
“I realize the land use map put together five years ago has some limitations,” County Councilman Lyle Nelson said.  Instead of flatly denying the amendment request, Nelson said he wished to give Fitzgerald other options.
Council Chairman Logan Wilde agreed, cautioning current residents to treat development applicants kindly.
“What concerns me is the public sentiment.  Publicly in this county, we have an attitude that we can tell our neighbor what their house should look like.  That concerns me a lot,” he said.  “Property rights are protected under the Constitution.  Voicing your opinion is also.”
“As a council, we can’t deny something just because your neighbor doesn’t like it,” Councilman Ned Mecham said.  “Our decision has to be what county ordinance and code is.”
Nelson abstained from voting, and Councilman Austin Turner voted in opposition of the motion denying a change to the land use map.  The planning commission also previously voted on the matter, forwarding their 3-4 split opinion to the council that the request should be denied.
Residents in the area have been vocal in their opposition as well, collecting as many as 150 signatures against one-acre zoning in the area.
“There was substantial outcry that the area did not want to see this type of growth,” Kippen said.  She said she has since had some residents come forward saying they could agree to five-acre lots in the area, but not one-acre lots.
In 2009, a previous area plan committee wished to limit growth in the Milton area due to lack of a water and sewer system, Councilwoman Tina Kelley said.