As the Riverton City Council debates a controversial housing ordinance, the lot that Seth and Karen Shaffer purchased months ago to build their dream home on remains vacant.
Until Riverton resolves the controversy over the newly passed ordinance that requires 50 percent brick, tile, stone or stucco on the main level of homes, the Shaffers are putting their dreams on hold.Seth Shaffer was one of the many who urged the City Council to rescind the masonry ordinance in a heated council meeting Tuesday night.
"We've waited eight months for our home to be built. I've dreamed about this house every night for years, then all of the sudden this brick ordinance comes along and ruins our dreams," he said.
Despite objections by builders, citizens and would-be homeowners, the council voted to keep the ordinance, although they are willing to meet with opponents to discuss the possibility of a compromise. But Seth Shaffer is uncertain if - and when - changes may be made.
For the Shaffers to meet the 50 percent brick requirement, they would have to add about $3,000 to their cost of their home, boosting their total loan to $125,000.
The young couple has struggled for five years to put a down payment of $35,000 on the home. "There's simply no way we can come up with more money. We're working extra hours and jobs now while we try to balance raising three children. We've stretched our resources as tight as we can," he told the Deseret News.
Seth Shaffer designs commercial buildings, and his wife works full time as a seamstress. Their youngest child is 2 months old.
Once they had saved enough money to put a substantial down payment on their home, they had hoped Karen Shaffer could quit her job to stay home with the children.
But Riverton's desire to "mandate personal taste in homebuilding" has altered their family plans. Their contractor had promised to begin building in August, but because the Shaffers can't afford the brick requirements, they have now been put at the end of the contractor's priority list. Understandably, the contractor is building the homes of those who can afford the additional brick work first, said Seth Shaffer.
Defending the ordinance, council members state they have plenty of aluminum siding homes in Riverton and they want diversity in the newly constructed homes. They believe the masonry requirement will result in a more attractive city and provide quality homes for the future.
They have countered accusations of "elitism" with arguments that Riverton already has many affordable homes for young families wishing to live in the rural community.
But Seth Shaffer contends they couldn't find a home in an affordable price range that would be large enough for their family. The home they hope to build allows room for the fourth child they would like to have.
Because the Home Builders Association of Greater Salt Lake has filed a lawsuit against Riverton's masonry ordinance, Seth Shaffer doubts the issue will be resolved soon. "If this goes to court, who knows how long it will take," he said.
Putting more brick on their split-level home detracts from its beauty, said Shaffer.
"We've saved like crazy to build our home. The council seems insensitive to the impact their decision is having on peoples' lives. It doesn't seem right that government officials can impose their tastes and tell us what looks nice and what doesn't. We're trying to build our dream home that we believe is beautiful."