This meeting was originally planned as a work session to discuss the Wohali Application #2. However, on request of the developer, staff scheduled a public hearing as well.
In January, when it became evident that Wohali’s original application was going to be challenged with a successful referendum, the developers submitted a second application which they claimed “fit” in the AG 1:20 zone. It included most of the same amenities seen on the first application, with the biggest and most notable difference being that the number of residences was greatly reduced, from 570 to 125. This number seemed much more palatable to CFRG and its supporters, but according to the developer 125 residences was not enough to give them the “critical mass” needed to support the golf course. Their solution? Nearly triple the number of nightly rental units from the 130 included in the first application to an astounding 303. The big question that our city staff, planning commission and city council have been dealing with since that application was submitted is “Are the nightly rentals allowed under the code, and if so, how many do they get? “ The CFRG group, with the guidance of attorney Polly McLean, have worked tirelessly since the application was submitted to try to dispute adding 303 nightly rentals in what should be the city’s most restrictive zone.
What Happened At The Meeting?
Right at the onset of the meeting, the Planning Commission turned the time over to the city attorney, Sheldon Smith. He apologized for not making it to the prior meeting due to conflicting commitments, and told them he felt like they needed more legal guidance on the issue of allowing nightly rentals in Coalville’s AG zone. In a surprise move, he introduced Dave Church, the lead attorney for Utah Leagues of Cities and Towns. He said he had asked Mr. Church to give his interpretation of whether or not nightly rentals should be allowed in the project application. Mr. Church referenced both state and city codes, and pointed out numerous holes in Coalville’s code. Finally, he rendered this opinion, “Based on these general principals of law, it is my opinion that the application to build a lodge or cabins/casitas available for nightly rental as part of the golf course development is a permitted use under Coalville City’s land use code and should not be counted against the allowed density for dwellings in that zone.” Once he had finished giving his statement and answering questions, Mr. Church left the meeting. City Attorney Sheldon Smith stood back up and reiterated what Mr. Church said and directed the commission by stating, “My opinion is that as a commission, we’re not talking about how many, we’re just talking about if nightly rentals are allowed. You either agree with what legal council has said or you disagree.”
The time was opened up for a public hearing on the nightly rental use. Citizens who had come prepared with arguments as to why the nightly rentals shouldn’t be allowed in the AG Zone without counting toward the allowed density were visibly deflated and understandably slow to make their way to the podium. Many were seen making changes to their written statements before they got up to speak. The majority of the public who spoke seemed frustrated with the evenings events and some even spoke about their dissatisfaction with the cities inadequate protections in the zoning codes and their disdain at the fact that recent code revisions had been focused on items that seemed frivolous in comparison to the issues that left our city wide open for almost any type of development in the AG Zone. Most addressed water concerns and the need to limit the number of nightly rentals. One member of the public reminded the commission that they needed to consider other legal opinions as well.
Near the end of the public hearing, legal council for CFRG, Polly McLean (who had driven in at a moments notice per request of the group’s members) stood and gave a differing legal opinion, siting city code
10-1-110 USES NOT PERMITTED IN ZONES UNLESS EXPRESSLY PERMITTED OR CONDITIONAL: Uses of land which are not expressly either permitted or conditional within a particular zone, and are not identified as permitted or conditional uses in any other zone that is included in this title, are herby expressly declared to be not permitted in all zones, pursuant to the express authority given under terms of this code. The Land Use Authority shall only permit such a use within a zone by the terms of chapter 8 of this title.
She brought up some excellent points and brought balance to the argument, but unfortunately her time was limited by the same restraints as the general public and she wasn’t able to give her full opinion to the commission.
In the end, the planning commission made a unanimous decision to forward Phase 1 of this Wohali application on to the city council, with a positive recommendation for allowing nightly rentals. The planning commission declined to recommend any certain number or formula for coming up with a number, leaving that decision completely in the hands of the five city council members.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The meeting brought to light many feelings and issues within our city. The chair of the planning commission expressed her frustration with the citizens who filed the referendum. It was pointed out that if the citizens had not been so short sighted, the original application would have been in effect along with its “benefits” to the community. She also expressed frustration with the developer for pulling the application before all of the citizens had a chance to vote, including the “many who have talked to her, but don’t like to speak publicly who would have voted in favor of the project.”
It is important to note that the members of CFRG and the supporters of the referendum were doing their civic duty to provide checks and balances to a city government that was not listening to the people. The citizens of our community were ignored as the council annexed the Wohali land into Coalville, knowing full well of the developer’s plans. Later, the council voted contrary to the desires of the citizens and disregarded their many valid concerns when the first application and rezone was approved. Some of the “benefits” that were promised with the first application, such as the developer drilling through Icy Springs to “bring their own water” are viewed by many as very risky and potentially damaging to our pristine water source. Other previously promised “benefits” such as use of the golf course, trails and an open gate at the development are not seen by some as worth the trade for the quality of life we currently enjoy. The financial “benefits” of the first project may have never been realized, as they were entirely dependent on the success of the development in our current economic market and many similar developments have experienced financial difficulties.
While the outcome of the nightly rentals is still to be determined by the current city council, one of the good things brought to light in this meeting is the dire need to revisit Coalville’s General Plan and make sure it is in line with what the residents of the city want for it’s future. Only then can the zones and codes of our city be written in a way that will ensure future developments will align with the goals and values of the majority of residents.
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