RIVERTON — A chapter in this city's history has either opened or closed, depending on your view, with the approval Saturday by the City Council of what is considered to be the largest development this city has ever seen.
Developer Hamilton Land wants to build homes and businesses on 246 acres near 13400 South between 2700 West and the Bangerter Highway. Hamilton also wants to use 105 of the acres for commercial purposes, 112 acres for single-family homes on small lots and 27 acres for multifamily housing.
On a second site, 78 acres at 12200 South and 2700 West, the developer wants to put single-family homes on one-third to quarter-acre lots.
On a 3-1 vote, with one member abstaining, the City Council approved the controversial development. Nearly 50 residents spoke at a public hearing that preceded the council's vote and all spoke against the project. One former resident, a Tremonton farmer and developer who said he is developing five projects, spoke for the development, saying it would be good for the city.
Mayor Mont Evans was absent, spending time in Idaho with a sick sister, Mayor Pro Tem Mark Easton told the crowd, which filled the council chambers and spilled into an overflow room where the proceedings were televised.
Residents who spoke against the project focused on key issues: traffic problems associated with adding hundreds of new homes and large retailers to the area; and the City Council not giving them enough notification of the plans or the project not being studied thoroughly enough.
The property, owned by Cletus Hamilton, was once a farm owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church traded the land for a farm owned farther west by Hamilton.
Residents criticized the council for moving the project along in the past six to seven months without adequate notification to the residents of the developer's plans. Easton pointed out that when the LDS Church owned the land, the church would not let the issue of development be brought up in public meetings. "They were afraid of bad publicity. They chose not to let it be handled in public meetings," Easton said.
Easton said his advocacy of the project cost him re-election in November. He voted in favor of it Saturday, as did councilmen Tim Heaton and Al Leavitt. William Sylvester voted against it and Bill Applegarth abstained, saying he did not have enough information about it.
The public hearing and council meeting overlapped a bit with the Planning Commission's meeting. Near the end of the public hearing, a note was passed to councilmen saying the Planning Commission recommended approval of the project with eight changes. The council adopted seven of the eight changes in an ordinance.
The changes are: Side yard setbacks in the single-family areas be changed to city standards of eight and 10 feet; there be an additional architectural review of the mixed-use residential development; a neighborhood park be within the 13400 South single-family area; additional traffic studies be conducted with further approvals with the commercial traffic study completed as a master study; the commercial master site plan include recommendations on mitigation of impacts to surrounding properties as well as traffic mitigation; parking be included within the park in the 2700 W. 12200 South property; and an easement or other designation showing the future road alignment through the park in the 12200 S. 2700 West property be included in the plan.
The City Council rejected the Planning Commission's recommendation that lot sizes near 13400 South and 2700 West be increased to one-third acre with a reduction in the total number of lots allowed.
Many speakers told the council they moved to Riverton to enjoy larger lots and horse property and that they were dismayed at the direction the project may be taking the city toward smaller lots and having their access to horse trails cut off by surrounding new developments.
A common theme of the residents was asking the council to put off making a decision on the project until three new City Council members are seated on Monday.
Easton, who said he resents the notion that the project was "railroaded" through the council, added the project has been under consideration for 1 1/2 years and significant changes have been made in the past month. "We added seven more conditions today when we adopted seven of the eight conditions recommended by the Planning Commission."
Although he was defeated at the polls, Easton said about 180 residents have voiced opposition to the project at public hearings out of 30,000 residents.
He said big box retailers have signed contracts with Hamilton and he expects development of the property after a year or so.