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Provo calls halt to west-side growth

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If you're planning to build a new house in Provo in the near future, don't take Horace Greeley's advice to "Go West."

The City Council won't consider new housing developments on the west side until next year while it figures out how to deal with rapid growth in the city's only remaining rural area.The council Tuesday imposed a zoning moratorium prohibiting approval of new subdivisions west of I-15 for the next six months.

"We want to put a halt to what's going on out there," said Council Chairman Greg Hudnall. "We're not saying we're against growth. What we're saying is we're against growth without the infrastructure."

City officials said Provo can't keep up with the demand for new water and sewer lines, roads and other essential services. At least 1,500 new homes have been built on former farmland in the past five or six years. And the city has approved another 1,100 building lots, mostly north of the Provo River. The temporary zoning moratorium will not affect those subdivisions.

Builders or property owners currently contemplating developing land will have to wait.

"People coming in for new subdivisions will be told that the council put a hold on things," Hudnall said.

Hudnall helped devise a west-side master plan in the early 1990s that anticipated new or improved streets such as Geneva Road and traffic signals at congested intersections like 820 North. Few of those projects are complete, though some will be soon. The moratorium ordinance will allow the city to "clear its plate" and make some decisions on the future of the burgeoning west side, said Councilman David Rail.

The council intends to begin shaping its vision next month at a two-day retreat with Mayor Lew-is Billings. Billings' approach thus far in his first term has been to control rather than try to stop growth.

Councilwoman Shari Holweg, a west-side resident, subscribes to the same philosophy. She urged a slowdown to allow time for the city come up with guidelines to protect green space and preserve the area's rural nature.