Saturday, December 16, 2006

Why Does the County Council Want to Encourage MORE Houses than Before?

A couple of people (including a current County Councilman) have questioned my data on the increase in potential houses as a result of the new proposed change to the existing development code.

Here's a concrete example, that hopefully anyone (even the councilman) might understand:

A development called Grand Haven (2400 S & 2400 E) filed for a "conservation" subdivision of 133 houses on 133 acres with 50% open space. After much discussion, the proposal was finally withdrawn because it would have allowed MORE houses than the underlying zoning. The developers opted, and were approved for, 91 houses on one acre lots - the maximum they could fit onto the property.

Hearing of the NEW proposal, I understand that Grand Haven developers are already considering a modification of the approved 91 unit subdivision to a 129 unit development with 30% open space. That's a 41% INCREASE in houses with 40% LESS open space than under their previous proposal.

This exemplifies the problem with the proposal which could be magnified by a HUGE factor. I would reiterate that the recently adopted proposal will allow an increase in density of about 33% on most of RA-1 zoned property.

Briefly, under the prior law, with 25% removed for roads, 'only' 75 houses could have been built on 100 acres. Prior to that law, the general rule was that each lot required one acre of land and 200 ft of road frontage - which had basically been in effect since 1972, with minor changes for clustering, etc. One acre and 200 ft. frontage generally resulted in substantially less than 100 houses on the proverbial 100 acre lot.

The new proposal WILL allow, and is apparently formulated to create, the "right" to build 100 houses on 100 acres. In actuality, with the proposed "bonuses" it will allow 10 houses on a 10 acres lot, six on six acres, etc. - again with out consideration of the need for roads to service the houses. Lots from 5 to 15 acres will be required to have NO open space and can build on any size lot they desire (1/3acre min).

In the Eastern Planning Area alone, there are approximately 400 parcels of land with an acreage of greater than 5 acres ( the proposed floor of the one per acre allowance); there are currently 3300 acres of land with NO house on the parcel; and 1100 acres, in 100 parcels, with ONE house on the parcel.

The finalization of these changes to RA 1 development and the ending of the moratorium may be discussed/reconsidered at the Council meeting on Wednesday (12/20).

Ladies and gentlemen, that's a lot of acreage on which to allow a 33% increase in allowable houses - and that 's just the Eastern Planning Area.

We constantly hear reference to the "property rights" of landowners; I would humbly submit that if we are using Land Use Management (which we are) principles (zoning); we must"protect" the rights of those who HAVE built, in addition to those are want to built. If we are to have Land Use Management for the health, safety, and general welfare of the community, then we must respect the property rights of those who reside in this county to expect a semblance of continuation of reasonable zoning to the ends elaborated in the General Plan and the expressed desires of the residents.

Expansion of the "rights" of developers and land owners to get more and more density on smaller and smaller lots in NOT consistent with the general principles expressed in our planning documents. This proposed law change is not even consistent with the "purposes" expressed in the law itself.

The Utah Supreme Court has said: “If an ordinance could promote the general welfare; or even if it is reasonably debatable that it is in the interest of the general welfare, we will uphold it.” “The selection of one method of solving the problem in preference to another is entirely within the discretion of the city, and does not, in and of itself, evidence an abuse of discretion.” See Bradley v. Payson, 2001 UT App 9, aff’d, 2003 UT 16; Harmon City v. City of Draper, 2000 UT App 31.

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