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Coalville City Council Hosts Crowded, Long Hearing On Wohali Project

Ken Lund on Flickr

The Coalville City Council Monday night attracted a crowd that spilled out of their meeting room, as they hosted  a hearing on the massive Wohali development.

After a lengthy hearing, the Council did not come to a decision about approving Phase One of the proposal and they continued the discussion and public input to a date in December.

The Coalville Council heard from 40 people during a hearing that stretched to nearly five hours.

The crowd that turned out was over 100 citizens.     Some residents complained that dozens of attendees out in the hallway couldn’t hear the meeting and ultimately left.    Coalville Mayor Trevor Johnson said they had tried to book the meeting at the North Summit High Auditorium, but that space was taken Monday night.

Wohali is proposed as a rural resort and golf course, located on 1500 acres west of Interstate 80.    It would ultimately include 570 residential units of various types and 130 nightly-rental units, with a build-out of 20 years.     The proposed Phase One  has 102 residential units.

The private planner for Wohali, Eric Langvardt,  said the project would be about  66 percent open space, and is offering a number of amenities to the public, including an 18-hole golf course, seven miles of public trails, a lodge and spa, and an all-faith’s chapel with architectural details modeled after Coalville’s historic Tabernacle.

Among the tax benefits, he said the North Summit School District would receive over $1.6 million a year  from the Phase One build-out and over $6.3 million a year when the entire project is done.

But in the hearing, some skeptical residents wondered how much it will cost them to use the amenities.    They talked about how other massive developments have gone bankrupt or run into financial difficulties and said Wohali would have major impacts on the town, from massively increasing the population to maybe bringing the first stoplight to town.

Kelly Ovard was one of the speakers who said they don’t need this kind of project.        

“We, again, as I said last fall, do not need Promontory.   We do not need Victory Ranch.  We do not need Glen Wilde in Coalville.  We do not need it and most of us don’t want it.  It will change this community forever.   I worked in property management in Park City for four and half, five years.  I do not want rich people coming in here and dictating to us how we’re going to live our lives 20 years from now.  Seven hundred units and 15 percent of those units are going to be full-time.  That’s 105 homes.  And if there’s two people in each, that’s 210 votes.  That will over-run the votes of this town.”

Nate Wadsworth said he is concerned about the future his kids will face.   And he had this question.       

“How adding 570 multi-million-dollar homes to my community will help or hinder my property taxes and the value of my home and the ability for my children to be able to stay in Coalville.  I fear that once my children move out of my home, they would never ever be able to afford to move back.”

Other speakers looked to the other end of the county and said Park City isn’t what they want.   Gretchen Cline, a 15-year resident of Coalville, said she lived in Park City, but the funky town she knew changed when developers with money moved in.               

“They bought us out.   And our officials fell for it, went for it.   Yeah, it’s a great idea, bring some money into the community.   It’s sad.  I don’t even like to go to Park City to visit because it’s a cluster-uck of people.  It is.  I don’t mind growth.  But I don’t, I just don’t want another Park City.”

Cline said she was speaking as someone who came originally from New York City.

While the large majority  opposed the project, there were speakers who spoke up in favor of the project.   Tory Welch said he’s a local contractor, and the development will be important for his livelihood and others.        

“I’m a local contractor.  I know as dozen other local contractors, minimum,  that I could just name off the top of my head, that could benefit from a project like this.  It’s not just a couple of cooks and a couple of people mowing grass, they’re gonna get jobs from the project like this.  It’d be contractors from all over the area that’ll be coming into the project and potentially feeding their families.   Your neighbors.  On top of that, I hear a lot of people say, everybody got up here said, “I’m not anti-growth, I just don’t’ want any growth basically.   And I hear a lot of people say that, “I’m all for it except for basically, I hate rich people.  That’s like the second argument.  Those aren’t viable arguments, I’m sorry.”

Welch said he understands the project stirs up a lot of emotions.

The crowd also heard from Steven Boyden whose family owns the Wohali property.    Although he lives now in North Salt Lake, Boyden said his great-grandparents were among the first settlers in North Summit.   

He said as someone who’s nearly 80- years old, he knows change will come.       

“Change is difficult.   And I’ve seen a lot of change in my life.  And the longer you live, you’ll see a lot more.   And I don’t know what gonna be in the future.  But one thing I do know is that there’ll be more people—something that offers a lot of options and a lot of opportunities for people who are trying to maintain themselves or be upwardly bound.  It’s not meant as destroying your culture.  Quite to the contrary, it gives you opportunities and a vision to face the future.  And I think future generations will appreciate something that’s done in a way that is sensitive to your own cultural values here in Coalville.”

Audience members also complained that little is known about the background of the Wohali developers.

The attorney for the project, Wade Budge, replied that they are developers familiar with golf course projects, that he and planner Langvardt have worked on such local projects as Tuhaye and Victory Ranch.

The Council voted to continue to item to December 9th.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.