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Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Highland council to consider moratorium on Town Center projects

HIGHLAND — On the heels of the appeal authority giving the green light to a 162-unit townhome subdivision in Highland's Town Center, the City Council on Tuesday will consider a six-month moratorium on future projects there.

Highland's Board of Adjustment on Friday denied the appeal of Councilman Brian Braithwaite, allowing developers of Toscana at Highland to begin construction on the 7.14-acre project.

In his appeal, Braithwaite argued that the Planning Commission did not have the authority to approve the project in December, citing sections of city code he said were violated.

On Monday, Braithwaite said he isn't sure if he'll file another appeal.

"I'm not sure I understand. He didn't address several of the issues pointed out," Braithwaite said of the 16-page decision by attorney Michael Walch. "I'm looking for a little clarification before I can take the next step."

Toscana would become the only affordable housing project in this Utah County suburb where the median home price is $430,000.

Braithwaite said the City Council would like to have moderate-income housing. His concern is the size.

"It's a huge project the city of Highland has never seen before. The Town Center was originally not supposed to have this size of a project, and it's taking away space for more commercial development," he said.

In the bedroom community, it is a concern to lose potential commercial tax base. Increased traffic is another.

At a council meeting in January, though, Toscana developers said there is a potential for the three-story units to have a business on the first floor.

Nate Hutchinson, owner of Toscana developer Flagship Homes, said company officials are pleased that the appeal was dropped. Crews will be working nonstop to have the units ready by June, before the national tax credit runs out, Hutchinson said.

Plans call for units to be 1,500-2,000 square feet, with an estimated cost of $160,000 to $200,000.

Tuesday, the council will discuss putting a six-month moratorium on all future building in Town Center.

Although that would not affect Toscana, residents have been upset that the ordinance for the Town Center district allows for high-density housing.

But Hutchinson said he feels a block to new building will hurt developers.

"We feel that this should be done much faster than six months," he wrote in an e-mail. "It is not fair to people who own millions of dollars worth of real estate. If (Highland officials) have concerns/problems with their current code, they should work around the clock to get those concerns resolved as fast as they can."