Coalville for Responsible Growth recently had a face-to-face meeting with the Wohali group and there have been many phone conversations. We asked them to respond to some common questions we covered during these discussions so everyone can have a chance to hear their perspective. Jim Boyden answers our questions on behalf of Wohali Partners.
CFRG – Jim, you have been to a lot of public meetings and heard comments from numerous citizens. What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding the people have about the Wohali development?
Jim Boyden – There are many. The belief that we will rob the city of its water resources and degrade the quality of Icy Spring is a big one. We have committed to developing new, independent, deep ground water wells that will produce more than enough for our development, with the surplus benefiting the City as a whole. Additionally, we are committed to constructing a new 500,000 gallon water tank, and the distribution infrastructure required to integrate it into the City water system. Additional water sources that are drought resistant, extra water storage and distribution system of our most important resource. All of this will be done at our expense and then donated to the City for free. In total, the initial cost estimates surpass $8,000,000. That is $8M dollars of public water infrastructure that is completely paid for by Wohali, using not a single penny of taxpayer money.But perhaps the biggest misunderstanding that those who oppose our project have is that, if the referendum is successful in reversing the rezoning of our property, Wohali will go away. Not true. Under the original zoning of AG given to our property at the time of its annexation, Wohali will still build 2 golf courses, a golf clubhouse, a lodge with nightly rental units, restaurants, a spa and any use currently proposed that is an accessory to golf, per the Coalville City zoning ordinance. We will construct nearly 250 residential units, taking advantage of bonus densities granted to us by the City code for dedicating large amounts of open space. In short, Wohali will move forward in one form or another. We’re not going away if the referendum is successful.
CFRG – You’ve talked about the Wohali giving tree and the benefits this project will bring. There are some obvious tax benefits and publicly available amenities. Could you discuss further the benefits of the project that may not be as well understood?
Jim Boyden – March 2018, we listened to hours of public comment before the City Council voted to annex our property. Much of that input was constructive. We listened intently. Our motivation from the very outset has always been to create an asset that the City can be proud of and that will benefit the City for generations to come. We spent the next 9 months completely revamping our concept plan. We hired the very best consultants to help us produce a never before seen development concept. It was a long and expensive process, but one we felt was necessary after hearing from the public. As mentioned earlier, the agreement to develop new water sources at our expense and being willing to donate them to the City for free is a multi-million dollar give. Every time our grandchildren fill a glass of water 50 years from now, those new wells will play a big part. We have offered to assume the responsibility of paying for the City’s Weber River bill in perpetuity, and to pay for the construction of the diversion structure so that City can begin using that water they’ve been paying for for years. We have agreed to upsize sewer infrastructure as well.
The creation of new tax revenue cannot be emphasized enough. The uptick in new revenue will begin immediately. At the completion of only our first phase, new tax revenues generated from our project will more than double the City’s operating budget. That translates to having sufficient funds to pay off the bonds for the sewer treatment plant, the water treatment plant, fill the potholes in the streets, to make civic improvements without requiring federal grants or more bonds. The City can pay for veterans memorials without taking the funds from other budgeted items. More than $1,500,000 will be generated for our schools. That means higher salaries for our wonderful teachers, more resources in the classrooms, new facilities and much needed upgrades to our existing facilities and equipment. Our fire department will have funds to expand and improve the tools needed for our communities for protection and to hire full time firemen.And yes, our project will be made available for Coalville residents to enjoy. We will have a very family friendly village center with plenty of green space, lawns, a splash pad, a farmer’s market, a flee market, special event areas for weddings. We intend to reconstruct the historic Coalville Tabernacle which will serve as a non-denominational all faiths chapel. We’ll have miles of trails for hiking and biking. The golf course and practice facility will serve as the home of the the North Summit golf team, and any Coalville resident is welcome to play the two Wohali golf courses.Another way to look at this “giving issue” would be to review the “Conditions of Approval” section of Ordinance 2019-8 which was passed by the City Council in December. That list represents the pages of requirements that we as the developer must comply with before we’re allowed to move through the various phases of our project.
CFRG – The Boyden family has a long and important history in this community. What type of a legacy would the Boyden family like to create with this project, what are your goals? Will you be involved with this project long-term?
Jim Boyden – Wohali is located, in part, on land that has been in my family for generations. My great grandfather was the town’s 6th mayor. My brothers and I spent every summer working on our farm, and playing in the mountains where Wohali is planned to be and we are now raising our families that same way. We want Wohali to be something that Coalville is proud of, something that can be a catalyst for success and prosperity for her citizens, a means of preserving her rich history and culture by ensuring future generation’s stability and growth. And yes, we will be involved until the end. We’re not going anywhere.
CFRG – As you know there is a strong majority of citizens with concerns about this development. Many feel this decision is too important to the future of Coalville to be made by just 3 consenting representatives. What are your thoughts on the people’s right to vote on the rezoning? Is there another way to involve the public at large in this decision?
Jim Boyden – I think it’s important to understand that our local government has been established with a 5 person city council. For over a century, Coalville has operated with this structure. It is supplemented by a 6 member planning commission and several members of the City staff. These individuals are responsible for ensuring that projects like Wohali strictly follow the ordinances and codes established by the City. After a 22 month process and scrutinous review, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of our rezone request and master concept plan. The City Council voted with a majority of its members to grant the rezone of our property. I believe that it’s crucial to respect the decisions made by our local authorities, and the structure of the municipal legislative process. Every citizen of Coalville was welcome at the over 15 meetings that were held. Education is critical. It’s unfortunate that most chose not to attend these meetings and educate themselves on the issues. Public hearings are only a portion of the process. When people have taken the time to ask us questions, present their concerns, review the studies and reports of independent experts, most come away feeling confident that we’re taking a responsible and reasonable approach to developing our land in a way that not only benefits us, but also greatly benefits the community in general.
CFRG – When would construction have begun had the referendum not been filed? If the rezoning is eventually upheld by the public, how much does the delay impact the project?
Jim Boyden – We anticipate another few months of plan review prior to final approvals being granted and the development agreement being executed. We anticipate breaking ground in the Spring. Should the matter be placed on a ballot during the next election, we’d be delayed by however many months there are between now and the election. The delay won’t impact the project, it will only delay the process.
CFRG – It’s also possible the public could vote to overturn the rezoning. I understand your group may pursue a development within the original zoning. What would that project look like? What would the benefits of a smaller development be for the city?
Jim Boyden – This is true. As stated above, Wohali will move forward. However, if the rezone is overturned, all of the public access will be rescinded and the project will become a private, gated community. Wohali will scale back its commitment to develop new water sources, storage and distribution to only the minimum required by the City under in original AG zoning classification, likely paying only impact fees in lieu of developing new sources and constructing the connection to existing city infrastructure. The tax revenue that would benefit the schools, city and fire district would be dramatically reduced. But we would still proceed with the golf courses, clubhouse, lodge and accessory commercial uses. The development would be strictly dictated by the rights granted to us under that zoning.
CFRG – Looking back, what could we have all done better to avoid the current situation? Where do things go from here and what steps can be taken to promote better collaboration on all sides – public/city leaders/developers?
Jim Boyden –This project has been in process for almost 2 years. Looking back, those who are concerned with our project and it’s potential impacts should have attended the planning commission meetings to learn factual details rather than rely on the water cooler conversation. Misinformation and fear have driven a great deal of the concerns within the community and sadly has divided neighbors, friends, and family. We, as the developer, should have conducted open houses, town halls, and informal gatherings to help educate the community on the details of our proposal and the rigorous vetting process that the City was conducting to ensure the future success of the development… making it a success for everyone.
CFRG – Anything else the public needs to understand about the development team and the Wohali project?
Jim Boyden –We want everyone to understand that we want Coalville to thrive and continue to be the historic rural community it’s always been. Our project will help absorb the operational costs of the city, spreading those costs over a much larger citizenry, potentially lowering taxes for everyone. Your interests and our interests align. We love Coalville too.