Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ogden Residents Have Their Say

Planning Commission Notes -- 11.1.06

By Dian Woodhouse

When I arrived at this meeting around 8 PM, there were still a couple of issues to be decided before the amendment issue was presented. The discussion of these issues I think will really shed more light on the other and about how the Planning Commission works.

The first one I heard was number 9 on this oh-so-packed agenda: "Conditional Use Permit CUP (137-06) for preliminary approval of the River Glen Group Dwelling at 1131 16th Street." Public comments were in progress, and the first I heard was from the owner of private road in that area. It is a right of way, but nonetheless privately owned, and the speaker asked, "Don't I have any say as to what goes on on my property?"

I did not hear a definitive answer to this question from the Commission.

Other speakers backed him up on this, stating also that the road in its present condition was too narrow to let two vehicles pass on it. This, although seemingly glossed over by the Commission, is to me quite crucial. I lived by a private road once, and a developer began to use the "right of way" to run the large construction trucks on to get to a nearby development. Those trucks literally destroyed that road. After about a month of them using it, it began to erode, and then clouds of dust would blanket the neighborhood every time a truck went by.

The problem here is that a private road is just that---private. The city does not maintain it, resurface it, or plow it. The owner or owners of the road are responsible for those things, and since no arrangement with the developer had been worked out because of this already present "right of way," everybody around there was left with having to deal, at the end, with what was almost a dirt road. So these things are important, and in my opinion should be addressed.

The developer spoke, briefly outlining what was intended---a complex of housing with a Homeowner's Association, and very strict rules as to what tenants could and could not do with the outside of their property, etc.

Preliminary approval of this use permit passed with one dissenting, our newest Commissioner, Lillian Holman. After the vote, Commission Chair Cathy Blaisdell said, "Commissioner Holman, would you explain your "no" vote please?" This I found unusual, but perhaps it is standard for this body to ask for explanations of dissent. Commissioner Holman stated that she was concerned about the traffic congestion on 16th Street, and besides, the neighbors didn't want it.

The next issue was very similar to this last: Item 10, "Conditional Use Permit (CUP 137-06) for preliminary approval of Hidden Cove Townhomes at 216 East 9th Street." At this point, Commissioner Maw entered the room, having been absent during discussion of the previous issue. I believe that he had recused himself from discussion of it, because my impression was that he had been in attendance before. The discussion of this item was interesting in view of the extreme meticulousness staff had given to the plans.

For instance, the presence or absence of exterior shutters on the building was discussed, with staff strongly recommending that they be present. Discussed also was the need for wainscoting, and a staff preference that brick instead of stucco be used in the columns. One could not help but contrast this meticulousness with the seemingly "anything goes" amendment up next to create the MU (mixed use) zone.

The neighbors spoke, one mentioning the high crime already present in that area and stating that the appearance of multi-family housing would add further to the transient population instead of the stability of the neighborhood. Another neighbor asked where the dumpsters would be.

"I don't know that we have to answer that," Chairwoman Blaisdell said, perhaps somewhat testily, but the developer was present and stated where they would be.

A Commissioner then pointed out that they had in front of them approval for a 22 unit complex whereas the plans were showing 24 units.

Commissioner Herman then spoke to this issue, stating that there was a fundamental problem here with this neighborhood that no amount of shutters could rectify. He believed that more connection to the neighborhood should be encouraged, that now it was "isolated and fragmented. I think they'd better start over in their approach," he said.

Commissioner Holman then moved that approval of the permit be tabled "until the developers come up with a design more conducive to that property..." This passed 6 -- 2. Again, the dissenting votes were asked by the Chair for an explanation. Commissioner Dyer stated that he felt that the justification for denial was on an emotional basis, and he did not feel that should play a part. Discussion of this permit was then tabled until December 6th, and developers were told to "get with staff and see what you can work out."

Since we have already discussed the presentation of Item 11: Public Hearing to Consider Proposal to Amend 15-27-1 Sensitive Area Overlay Zone and Proposed Ordinance Adopting a new Section 15-13-33 (Slope Stability Studies Required,) I will go directly to public comments, with the ever present admonition that should there be misquotes or misspellings, corrections would be very appreciated.

Caril Jennings spoke first, stating that the foothills were our "Commons." The Commons, Jennings explained, is an English term for land that can be used as a gathering place by everyone forever, not just a select group of people whose homes may be near it. She urged the Commission to think about this regarding foothill development.

The next speaker discussed the consequences of amending the slope ordinance, and stated that we "should be very careful before we change the slope ordinances. He spoke of a system of terracing for runoff that has been "breached," making runoff a problem up there even now.

Sandy Davies asked--Why are we seeing these geological changes in the built up areas surrounding Ogden, mentioning the land slippage in Mountain Green and Heather Lane in Layton, the mudslide in South Weber that got into a home and injured a child, and the mudslides in Farmington Canyon. Davies also implied that we should be very careful about allowing Foothill Development.

Dan Schroeder spoke next, and handed copies of comments to both the Commissioners and Recorder, stressing the fact that the latest revision had not allowed him enough time to examine the document thoroughly. He then began to speak, but was stopped by the Chair before he had finished because his time was up.

Sandy Crosland: "We should not pretend that this is a zoning change in a vacuum. This is a zoning change to accommodate Chris Peterson's project.

Deb Badger mentioned a meeting in which Mr. Montgomery had stated something about the need to change slope ordinances for legal reasons. A former city attorney, Ms. Badger cited several cases in which slope ordinances were upheld, and also mentioned several Utah cities which currently have them in effect.

Jock Glidden referred the Commissioners to the environmental resources section in the general plan. "The proposal, I suggest, is out of order," he stated, saying instead that the Commissioners should wait for the results of the Mount Ogden neighborhood meetings. The proposed mixed use zone, he stated, "is ad hoc, arbitrary, and without guidance."

Matthew Mossbarger said that the proposed amendments seem to be a relaxation of the current rules instead of a tightening. He mentioned the removal in the proposed amendments of the need to do an economic feasibility study as well as the need to post a bond, and stated that we really need the feasibility study as well as financial protection if we as a city become involved in these developments.

Don Wilson: "I would remind you that Ogden City, WSU, and the City Council have waited very patiently for Mr. Peterson to give us something other than talk."

David Smith spoke of the General Plan and its provisions for preserving trails, views, and open space. "Taking that restriction off is not the direction the community wants to go, and it's not in the general plan."

Mary Hall stated that she was concerned with the transfer of development rights, and asked if the Commission could consider the MU Zone proposal another evening.

Theresa Holmes told the Commissioners that she had 3,000 signatures on a petition that stated that the undersigned did not want the foothill property sold. "Let's save what we have left, and not give it to Chris Peterson and his stupid proposal," she said.

The next speaker spoke of the problems associated with runoff in our foothills, and said, "I don't feel warm and fuzzy about anything I see here regarding water runoff. They have removed hydrology (entirely.)"

The next speaker stated that he was impressed with the civil tone of the meeting, considering this "shameless attempt to rape the foothills. I'd rather you just lift restrictions for him, dishonest as that may be," instead of passing these amendments so that the entire city would always have to comply with them.

Spencer Robinson stated that he had been at the meeting since 5 PM, and stated that there is more time that has to be invested in this decision. "This is bigger than the backside of a building," he said, referring to a discussion regarding the same earlier about one of the multi-family housing complexes.

Sharon Beech: "If we had a forensics team, we would see Mayor Godfrey's and Mr. Ellison's fingerprints all over this."

The next speaker said that no one has stepped forward stating that they don't like the present ordinance and saying why. He wished to know who decided that the present ordinance was a problem in the first place.

Bob Belka addressed a comment earlier in the meeting from one of the Commissioners, which was that they serve without compensation and are beholden to no one. "You are beholden to me," Mr. Belka said. "You are committed to that. Don't give away our mountain to a developer."

Brian Dorsey stated that one thing that had surprised him upon moving to Ogden was that there was no limit on Foothill Development.

Daniel Bedford referred to the spokesperson of Amer's statement that he believed that Ogden would be the next Boulder, Colorado, and reminded everyone that Boulder Colorado had a huge emphasis on preservation of open space and limitations on development over a certain elevation.

That was pretty much it for public comments. The rest you know from the news articles. The Commission decided to keep the public hearing open, even though Andrea Lockwood, one of the city attorneys, informed them that by law, they only needed one public hearing and this could satisfy that requirement.

There was another interesting thing involving Ms. Lockwood which I at first misinterpreted. At the end of the meeting, she was addressing the Commissioners and stated that one had given as a reason for denial of a permit that the neighbors didn't like the project. This, Ms. Lockwood said, was not good decision making in planning and zoning. It didn't matter whether the neighbors liked it or not.

This seemed so inflammatory that I discussed it in the hall later and was set straight. I was told that what Ms. Lockwood was stating was that, if a developer had complied with all existing ordinances and owned the property, the fact that the neighbors didn't want the development was not a legally sound reason to deny the developer a permit.

It was obvious to me that Commissioners Herman, Atencio, and Holman especially were actively taking their role on the Commission very seriously, and the Commission as a whole was quite receptive to the public comments, the Chair even saying that the evening had been quite an education for them. Commissioner Maw was emphatic about the need to do this right, and instrumental in moving the meeting to its conclusion. From attending this meeting, I think this is the fine line the Planning Commission has to walk--a balance between the way the public states it wants this city to go and the existing laws. And if a developer follows and complies with established ordinances, the law wins out and the developer gets the go-ahead.

Which is why these proposed changes are so important to us all.

11 comments:

sharon said...

Dian,
You've done a bang-up job of reporting the nuts and bolts of the meeting! Thanx.

I was struck by Maw's contention that a developer has never been mentioned in their discussions. I think we all found that to be unbeleivable.

Over all, I was pleased with the openness that the Chair invited into the meeting. She was very welcoming, gracious and invited comments. Did you notice that some even came up to the podium at least 3 times...and the Chair even encouraged those who remembered they had something else to add. At the late hour too.

I complimented her on that, as the meeting was so very different in tone and iplementation then our rigid, unwelcoming City Council meetinigs. I didn't see a policeman there, but the chambers were so crowded, I could have missed that.

Kudos go to Commissioner Lillie Holman. Brand new, and willing to speak up. (Dian...her name is Lillie, not Lillian).

Commissioner Maw had recused himself from that particulat Item #'s discussion...and did come back, as you saw.

katy said...

It is interesting that our city attorney Lockwood takes the same line of reasoning that Mayor Godfrey does:

"If it is legal it is automaticaly ethical and moral, and it doesn't matter what the citizens want"

It seems to me that this whole effort to change all these plans and public safety rules in Ogden are geared toward making the Peterson proposal "legal".

Once the Mayor gets these horrible changes declared legal, he can and will proceed with the rape of Ogden regardless of what the people want.

To Mayor Godfrey, if it is legal, it is automatically ethical. Most tyrants in history have used this same sociopathic logic.

dian said...

Thanks for those comments, Sharon. And no, I did not notice that some came up two and three times. I agree with you about the receptiveness and graciousness of the Chair--in fact, I did think at one point that she had gone beyond the call of duty here and might have said--Is there anyone here who would like to speak in favor of these amendments? Not because the comments were not good--just because the meeting had gone on so long. Which is probably why she did not do that.

I also was impressed with Commissioner Lillie Holman, and my apologies to her for getting her name wrong. Obviously up to speed in meeting protocol and obviously involved enough with the community to know the wishes of the people. I think she's going to be a great addition.

The most important thing that came out of that meeting for me is what I perceive to be a hitch in the process of community input being meaningful. Ms. Lockwood evidently made it clear that if a developer is complying with zoning regulations, there is really not much community input can do to change things if the community is not in favor of the project.

Here's a scenario: People are living by undeveloped acreage for years, and really appreciating it. It is zoned commercial, shall we say, but nobody's ever done anything with it. Suddenly, it is sold. These people may or may not know this. The developer begins going through the process with the Planning Commission.

There's a big chance the surrounding people would not be aware of this at all.

It might only be late in the process that those people finally become aware that they're about to lose "their" open space. If the developer has complied with all the rules, those people can of course complain to the Commissioners, but from what Ms. Lockwood said, those complaints aren't going to mean anything. Because the developer is legally within his/her rights to proceed.

I may be wrong about this---maybe there is a provision somewhere early on that the developer has to give notice to the surrounding neighbors that development is in the works. But for the developer to get that far, the zoning has to be compatible with the project.

What this says is that people who care about what is going to happen in their neighborhoods would be wise to check that zoning. I imagine they could do this online with the zoning map from the Ogden website. However, I don't really know of any way that they would be notified of a sale of that property or the intent of the buyer except by word of mouth, if that.

Maybe this is something those Neighborhood Councils, which I have seen exist but have heard nothing of their activities, could do.

It was sort of upsetting seeing all those community members near those development projects, some feeling so threatened by them, and really having no recourse at that point but to try to work with the developer, who really would have no legal obligation to work with them, although I imagine many would feel they had an ethical one and would try to do so.

Anonymous said...

Once again there is that damned word with no meaning in Godfrey's Ogden - ETHICAL!

Frank B said...

I have some bad and sobering news for Theresa Holmes. It would not matter if she had 3,000 or 30,000 signatures on a petition against selling the Foothills. Here in Ogden we are a Republic and the only signature that counts is Godfrey's. He has demonstrated many times that he really doesn't care what the residents of Ogden want. He is going to do what ever he sees fit regardless because we voted him in and he is the decider.

sharon said...

The homeOWNERS who spoke against the fourplexes were very articulate. They were polite and passionate about saving the 'community' of their neighborhood. Their fears about the high crime already there and escalating further were valid. And, what about the apt dwellers? They don't get much of a bargain either. The parking would take up yard space and it appeared that any children wouldn't have a safe place to play.
The landlord/owner will be in Logan, and would not be around to address problems as they arise.
Is this how slumlords are spawned?
Ms Holman addressed their concerns and voted 'no'. Bravo to her.
I also thot it interesting that 'no' votes were explained. How about 'yes' votes?
But, getting back to the 'sensitive overlay' and the MU zones....what do y'all think would be the best way to proceed to alert the citizens that this is on the table and about to be digested?
Unfortunately, most people don't read the editorial page, watch news, or involve themselves in community affairs. 'Leave it to Beaver'......he'll take care of my needs.
So, do you think you more articulate folks like Dan, Tod, Dian, could write some commentaries? Of course, 'you know who' will be alerted and the peices won't be printed til his commentary can run on the same page.
Also, more 'neighborhood' meetings?
Flyers???
I await with abated breath, (and you know how painful that is!), your collective reasoning.

Curmudgeon said...

Sharon:

One of the Commissioners, I don't recall which, wondered how in the hell that odd piece of property was ever zoned for fourplexes in the first place. During the discussion, it was pointed out [reiterated later by the Comission's attorney I think] that that really was not a proper matter to raise at this point. The fact was a former Commission and Council had zoned it R4, the current owners had bought it as a piece of R4 zoned land, and at this point there was nothing much that could be done about it. If it were rezoned R1, for example , the owners would be in court instantly [and rightly] suing the city for "taking" the value of the land they had purchased for R4 development [or, more likely, seeking direct judicial overturning of the denial of permission to develop.] The mere fact that the neighbors didn't want four plexes on land that had been zoned for four plexes is and was, legally, insufficient reason for the Comission to deny the planned construction there.

What occured to me, and please god, to some of the Commissioners too, was that with respect to the current lands now covered by the ban on building on slopes over 30% in sensitive overaly zones [which includes the city and WSU land Mr. Peterson wants to build on], a few years from now, a new Commission member might be asking his or her fellow Comissioners rhetorically [it then being way too late to do anything about it], "why the hell was the 30% slope limit waived on this land in the first place?"

Which of course reminds me yet again of one of Mr. Montgomery's clever bits of disingenuousness. At one point, he said in response to the "neighborhood" people who kept bringing up the Peterson plans for the city lands in Mt. Ogden park area, that the current restriction on building on lands sloped more than 30% did not apply to that land now, because it's public land. That the restriction in the sensitive overlay zone applied only to private holdings. And so concerns about how changing the Ordiance might affect the Mt. Ogden park lands were really off topic and not germaine to the matter under discussion.

Of course, Mr. Montgomery, everyone in the audience [including Mr. Peterson's atty who was reportedly there as well], plus all those who spoke plus all those who didn't plus [please god] all the commission members knew that Our Glorious Leader, Hizzonah Mayor Godfrey has proposed selling those parklands to Mr. Peterson for development. So that any change to the 30% slope restrictions made in the ordinance, which would cover as Mr. Montgomery said, private holdings, would immediately apply to those parklands if they are sold to Mr. Peterson as the Mayor proposes. Mr. Montgomery's comments raise disingenuousness in public testimony to the level of a high... or in this case, low... art.

sharon said...

Well....DUH!!

Isn't that the entire point of the proposed change? Maw saying they'd 'never' discussed a developer was like saying, 'gee, we never noticed those boa constrictors around our ankles'.

Since the fourplexes DO seem a bit much for the parcel...wonder if going back to the drawing board and coming up with fewer units and making a little play area would help. Of course, that won't make the neighbors any happier, cuz they don't want 'transients' so close by. I wish the Logan guy and Peterson would go to Huntsville...it's becoming the chi chi place to be, and they, esp. Peterson, wouldn't be HERE! I know, I know, the Logan builder has every rite to build on his own property.

sharon said...

Comment moved by Administrator to fron page.

dan s. said...

Actually, Curmudgeon, down-zoning a piece of property normally does not constitute a "taking" unless it completely eliminates the property's "value" (that is, as long as the owner can still develop the property in some way). Here's a summary by the Utah Property Rights Ombudsman:

Land use regulation in the form of zoning controls rarely gives rise to a Lucas-type takings claim. Even if substantial property value is lost, so long as an economically viable use remains the Lucas test is inapplicable. In a recent Utah case, the property owner's appraiser testified that a large tract of commercially zoned property in Sandy was worth $1.355 million before it was down zoned to residential and $775,000 afterwards, a loss of 43% its value. That was not a taking, said the Utah Court of Appeals. ". . . zoning and rezoning present perplexing problems of economic and environmental gain and loss. While some gain, others lose. It is the Legislature which must strike the proper balance."

Still, the matter before the Ogden Planning Commission last week was a development proposal, not a down-zoning proposal, so the attorney was probably correct to tell them that commenting on the appropriateness of the zoning was out of order.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

OK. I stand corrected. I think in some other states, things stand differently, and re-zoning that significantly reduces the worth of a tract constitutes a cause of action against the zoning authority. But apparently things are different here in Utah. As so much is. [grin]

The larger point I was [however stumblefootedly] trying to make, though , still stands: we do not want to be in a position in which Comission members, are, say a year or two from now, asking during a dicussion of a development proposal for the Mt. Ogden lands, "why the hell did we drop the 30% slope building restriction in the first place?"

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