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Developers seek review of county water standards

PROVO -- Ron and Tracy McDonald, would-be canyon developers whose project was turned down recently for failing to meet the county water standard, came back Tuesday to discuss things further.

The McDonalds are trying to develop a 39-lot project known as "The Cottages at Hobble Creek" in Hobble Creek Canyon in a critical environment zone.Utah County Commissioners rejected their plans by a vote of 2-to-1 when it was determined the project did not provide the required 1 acre foot of water per 10,000 square feet of land called for under county ordinance for the CE-2 zone.

Ron McDonald said the county requirement is actually asking for much more than the state suggests with a duty requirement of 4 acre feet per acre.

Buck Rose, director of planning and development for the county, said the one acre/10,000 feet requirement actually works out to be the same, with an acre being 40,000 square feet.

McDonald said when a house is put up with a driveway and a garage, only about 5,000 to 6,000 square feet is left to irrigate. That pushed the requirement up to 8 acre-feet-per-acre of land, he said.

"We took a look at the amount of water that was going to be wasted," he said. "A duty factor of 4 is arguably not appropriate for all situations."

The McDonalds contend that land located in a canyon or at the edge of a lake should not be evaluated in the same light as that on a valley floor.

"The water requirement should be determined by a person who knows and understands all consumptive uses," Ron McDonald said.

Tracy McDonald said she believes state water officials would look at the "end game" irrigation in reviewing a change application and would probably agree with their assessment of the situation. She said some leeway to allow for exceptions based on specific sites.

"This is not right for everybody," Ron McDonald said.

Rose said the county cannot force everyone to water their lawns or keep their property green, but they can see that there is sufficient water to do so.

"It's important those areas be kept green because of the distance we have between fire stations," he said.

He said the water requirement ordinance is historically based on assuming most of the development in a critical environment zone would be commercial as with a resort.

He said the ordinance was "tested" when Micron built in Lehi and bought up water rights that then left many pieces in the county without water.

"We looked at the ordinance again and saw that each piece needed owned water. The planning commission recommended certain specifics. One was this requirement," he said.

Commissioners Jerry Grover and David Gardner participated in the discussion in the work session portion of their regular meeting and said they would take the matter under advisement.