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Referendum Drive Launched In Coalville Against Wohali, Mayor Johnson Comments


A group of  Coalville citizens, opposed to their City Council’s approval of the Wohali development, have filed to ask for a referendum on the development.

Coalville Mayor Trevor Johnson tells KPCW  it’s not a surprise to him.  

Mayor Johnson told KPCW that he doesn’t know if he has a position, one way or the other, about the referendum effort.

He’s been told that the group, Coalville For Responsible Growth, filed for a referendum on Dec. 16th    They met the legal requirement to start the campaign within a week after Coalville Council’s approval of Wohali on Dec. 9th.

He said legally, the proposal for a referendum has to gather signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters.       

“The developer has the time to come in, and talk to those signators, and remove—kinda plead their case on that as well.  And then have a chance to change their minds.  But if 25 percent make the threshold then it gets on the ballot.”

The Mayor said he believes that among the critics of Wohali, there are two different positions.      

“This is my take on that group.  Within that group, the leadership, by and large, at least what I’ve heard from their representation on the legal side, is that they want to make this project better for Coalville.  Now what that means, they haven’t got to yet.  There still some conversations to be had about specifics, what do they want from the developer, what does a better project look like.  Then there’s another section of—and I submit that that might even be the majority—of people out there that just want nothing.”

Johnson said Coalville citizens will have to keep in mind that a referendum, if successful, won’t stop all development on Wohali’s 1500 acres west of Interstate 80.     They will also need to consider the reported benefits of the project approved by the Council.        

“Currently, without any changes, there’s public access for the community—if they want to go and golf, if they want to do the trails, or cross-country ski up there, whatever that case is, there’s access.  But again, for those that think that if this referendum goes through, that there’s going to be zero development up there.  That’s not the case.  There will still be a golf course.  There will be close to 300 structures up there.  And then there’s gonna be a gate.   There’s not gonna be public access, there’s not gonna be improvement to our water infrastructure on their part, that they’re gonna share in.”  

The project was reviewed by Coalville’s Planning Commisison for about a year and a half.   The Mayor said there was little public input during that time.       

“While we had a lot of support, in terms of interest, when the annexation went through, between the annexation and when the applicant filed for their development application, there was not a lot of input from the community at the public meetings.”

The City Council’s approval included two Council Members who were concluding their terms.   We asked if the vote should have been delayed so two new Members could vote in January.  

Johnson didn’t think so, and said the previous Council had been tracking the project through its Planning Commission discussions.       

“In that process, the Council will give city staff, say, ‘Hey look, we want the Planning Commisison to consider this, this and this.”  And so a year and a half of doing that—my personal opinion is I think the current City Council had an obligation to look at it.    They’d been through the whole process from Day One.  The new Council members coming in were kind of on the tail end of all that.  So I thought it was responsible for them to take the vote.”

Coalville Mayor Trevor Johnson.

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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