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Orem housing plan is stalled

Council deadlocks on proposal for the 28-unit project

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OREM — Dee Hardman does not care who moves into his neighborhood. He just doesn't want what he calls "a brick trailer court" in his back yard.

That's how Hardman describes the 28-home subdivision of "affordable housing" units proposed by developer Leo Lines at 525 S. Geneva Road. The homes would be built on 5,000-square-foot lots on about five acres.

Hardman and other residents who live near 800 South and Geneva Road asked Orem's City Council recently to deny Lines permission to build a subdivision they said would increase traffic and cause safety problems. The residents came away with a temporary victory when the council deadlocked on the issue after one councilman recused himself from the vote. It wasn't the formal denial the residents wanted, but it keeps the project from moving forward.

Lines' subdivision — called Anjeanette Estates — would have been the largest subdivision of its type ever built in Orem.

Residents opposing the project did everything they could to stop the development. They presented the council with a petition signed by more than 50 households, a video showing traffic problems on Geneva Road and proposed alternate site plans for the development.

Hardman and other residents said they aren't opposed to low income housing. They say their concerns include traffic, safety and aesthetics.

Lines entered the meeting without approval for his project from the Orem Planning Commission and city administrators. He asked the council why the city opposed his project because of traffic concerns yet supported a proposal to build a student village adjacent to Utah Valley State College.

After some discussion, the council voted 3-3, temporarily shooting down the development.

To avoid the appearance of a conflict, Councilman Mike Thompson recused himself from the meeting because he has worked with Lines on campaigns for the Republican Party.

Thompson's recusal was applauded by residents opposing the development. Lines was upset, however.

"He was not elected to not vote. He was elected to vote. If he would have voted, it would have passed," Lines said.

Lines has also worked in the Republican Party with Councilwoman Judy Bell and is good friends with Councilman Steve Sandstrom. He said he didn't understand why Thompson recused himself and Bell and Sandstrom did not.

Many residents would support a plan for 8,000-square-foot homes, said Scott Johnson, a resident who helped gather signatures for the petition. Such a plan would reduce the number of homes in the subdivision from 28 to 20.

"With 5,000-square-foot homes (lots), there's not even room for a front yard. That's not safe for kids," Johnson said.

He said the main concern of most residents was the design of the subdivision — too many homes crammed into too little space.

Lines said he can't make a profit building a 20-home subdivision. He hopes neighbors will support a plan to build a 28-home subdivision with a park.

If such a subdivision is built, it will satisfy a need for affordable housing in Orem. Every city in the state is required by a law passed in 1996 to have an affordable housing plan.

Although Orem has a need for more housing, the city does a good job providing affordable housing, said Stanford Sainsbury, director of developmental services for the city.

"Orem has done one of the best jobs in the state creating affordable housing," Sainsbury said. "We are a model for other cities."

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com