Voters conflicted over new zoning code for West Layton Village
Layton • In the battle over the future West Layton Village, residents seem to agree on only one thing: The 107-acre parcel will be developed eventually. But on every other point, they're split.
Supporters of a new Village Center zoning district see a dream community of single-family homes, apartments, stores, offices, trails and parks.
Opponents say that kind of development would be too dense because of the hundreds of apartments that could be included. They fear an urban nightmare of crime, pollution, traffic jams, overburdened schools, the loss of family farms and the end of the area's rural feel.
"It'll be a huge mess," said Brian Pead, who helped form Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton to fight the project.
He added that the group isn't against renters and doesn't oppose the development of west Layton but just wants a say in what's built there.
Citizens for Responsible Growth gathered enough signatures on a referendum petition to place two measures, titled Proposition 2 and Proposition 3, on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Voters will cast ballots for or against the Layton City Council's adoption in April of a Village Center zoning district and a Village Center plan code that allows for a mix of uses.
Layton officials are standing firmly behind the Village Center idea. They say development is inevitable and the new zoning "is the best method to provide for the development of a quality, mixed-use walkable neighborhood" that will provide a variety of housing options for families, single people and empty nesters.
Councilman Michael Bouwhuis said apartments are part of a "menu" of options for a Village Center and that developers would not be required to include them.
The property at the center of the dispute is agricultural land along West Hill Field Road between 2200 West and 2700 West. That parcel is owned by Property Reserve Inc. (PRI), a subsidiary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been operating a welfare farm there. PRI, which participated in the development of the Village Center zone, will not be the developer of the property.
Plans call for another 31 acres north of the parcel to be zoned into the Village Center district eventually. That property, which is owned by Terraventure, is currently zoned for commercial and professional business use.
The property south of the PRI land is owned by the Day family, who have farmed there for generations and worry about the impact of the West Layton Village.
"Why do they want to pack them in," VeAnne Day asked. "Why do they want to urbanize Layton?"
Her husband, David Day, said as the amount of farmland shrinks, it becomes more expensive to maintain the water system shared by the remaining farms in the area. More roads and more people, with the accompanying vandalism and complaints about dust and spraying, also are not conducive to farming, he said.
The Days emphasized that they just want a fair vote and will respect the position of the community either way.
The campaign has been heating up as the election approaches. Dueling websites http://www.westlaytonvillage.org for the proponents and http://www.westlaytonvillage.info and voteagainst2and3.com for the opponents lay out the arguments and argue over the details.
Some opponents claim the city is using the LDS Church name in a voter information pamphlet to advocate for the project. The arguments for Propositions 2 and 3 written by the city each say twice that the property with the Village Center zoning is owned by PRI, a subsidiary of the church which the opponents contend implies which side voters should take on the issue.
Layton Mayor Steve Curtis said the city is just being transparent by stating who owns the land, as it would with any other property owner.
"It's not trying to influence anyone," he said.
Michael Purdy, an LDS Church spokesman, said that the church does not have a position on how people should vote on the issue.
Opponents also claim that the city hasn't listened to them or given them a voice in the process. City officials counter that they held 21 public meetings and made 16 major changes to the Village Center code based on citizen comments.
The tension between the two sides was evident at an informational meeting last week sponsored by the City Council at Layton High School. Leaders of Citizens for Responsible Growth declined to join the council members in answering questions from a crowd of a few hundred people. Instead, they invited those in attendance both opponents and supporters to leave and gather across the street at Layton Commons Park to discuss the issues. About 30 people followed.
Pead said the forum wasn't neutral because the bulk of the information presented was in support of the project.
"The people who came out mentioned that they were glad we were trying to get a voice in city government and not be ignored," he said.
But others believe they are heard. Speaking for Residents for West Layton Village, Chad Harward said at last week's meeting that the new zoning district will provide more options for residents, including those who are downsizing and want to stay in the community.
"This vote is a simple choice," Harward said. "You are either OK with current development styles of box commercial surrounding neighborhoods or you would like to try something new with smaller commercial in the center surrounded by a variety of housing options, kind of like a town-square model that is called Village Center Code."
Layton residents will cast ballots in the Nov. 6 general election on whether to uphold or overturn two decisions by the City Council that created a Village Center zone at 2200 West and Hill Field Road. For more information on both sides of the issue, visit the Layton city website at http://www.westlaytonvillage.org/ and the Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton's websites at http://www.westlaytonvillage.info and voteagainst2and3.com.