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Coalville City Council Members Approve Wohali Project, But Are Not Unanimous

Ken Lund on Flickr

The controversy over the proposed Wohali project in Coalville came to a head Monday night.    The development was approved by the City Council on a 3-to-1 vote.

The vote came after a public hearing, where critics spoke out in an audience of up to 120 people.

Wohali is proposed as a rural resort and golf course, located on 1500 acres in the hills west of Interstate 80 and downtown Coalville.   It is proposing 570 residential units and 130 nightly-rental units, with a build-out of 20 years.

The project was okayed for a rezone and a Master Planned Development approval.  Voting in favor were Council Members Adrianne Anson, Cody Blonquist and Arlin Judd.    Voting against was Rodney Robbins.

Council Member Tyler Rowser was absent due to a medical procedure.

The vote came after a public hearing where some 24 citizens spoke, and none expressed support for the project.    Critics said Coalville’s traditional rural character would be overwhelmed and changed forever by the project.    

They expressed skepticism about the water plan.   The developers propose using 190 acre-feet the city holds in reserve, for irrigation at Wohali.    The applicants said they will immediately drill for water sources to supply their project and replace the city’s water.

Stating his position before the vote, Arlin Judd said he grew up on a farm in North Summit but the number of existing working farms now, he said, can be counted on one hand..     Judd said subdivisions are sprouting across the valley, and Wohali has merit, for one thing, because it’s hidden behind the western hillside.

He talked about the changes and choices facing farm families.        

“What they end up with, or what their family ends up with, is a value in property that somewhere down the line, a generation comes along that says, “I don’t want to farm anymore.   It’s not profitable for me.   So I want to get rid of-I want to do something different with my property.   That’s what we’re dealing with here—someone who wants to change the use of property.  We don’t want to respect that.  A lot of you don’t want to respect that-- the fact that they want to change the use of their property.   And you see the examples everywhere.  The best use of that property when you want to quit farming, the most valuable use of that property is to subdivide it.”

Cody Blonquist said last year, he voted against the annexation of the Wohali property, adding he thought it would open a “Pandora’s Box of what-if” as he put it.    But now,  he said, his job was to do what he could to protect the entire community, including the new property.      

“The easiest way to kill this project was from Day One of annexation.  I didn’t feel like we had the resources to accommodate this project, to accommodate this process.  But here we are.  And now it’s a part of Coalville City.  They’re probably the single largest landowner within Coalville City limits.  They have just as much right, if not more than anybody else in this room.  And I think by being fair, and now, I’m representing everyone in this room, that includes all  landowners inside the city limits.  Everyone has to be looked out for.”

He also noted many critics called for further study on the development—at a time, he noted, when two of the three supporting votes, Judd and  Anson, are lame ducks.    Monday was their last Council meeting.    Blonquist said he heard boasts that the two new Council Members would join with Robbins to vote down the development and he didn’t think that was fair.

Adrianne Anson cited several reasons for her vote—for one thing, she said it’s an opportunity for tourism and to bring life back to Coalville’s empty buildings.    While some locals have denounced Park City, Anson said it’s a “gold mine” that has benefited their town.        

“Y’know, our Fair, it’s not funded by restaurant tax from Coalville restaurants.  That’s Park City’s restaurants.   That’s people coming from all over the world to spend money there.  And we get the benefits from it.  And I think that—I’m not saying that we need to be THE next Park City.   But I think that we can recognize its value for us.”

Meanwhile, Rodney Robbins said he still has questions about the project, but he’s been  given the run-around.    And he said he believes in following the will of the public.       

“I do have a strong belief that we need to listen to the public, cause we represent them.  And they are asking for more studies, and I agree with that.   And I feel that our power comes from the consent of the governed to represent them.  And I need to represent the people first, and the property second.”

The approval came with several conditions proposed by Blonquist. Among those, the approval said the number of primary homes in Wohali will be capped at 20 percent (which applicants have said is their plan); they will supply enough affordable housing to meet the demand they create; and the open space, including the golf course, will be under a deed restriction.

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.
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