While Wohali Approved, Mayor Says His Focus Is On Protections For Town
The controversial Wohali project received an approval from Coalville City Council earlier this month. Mayor Trever Johnson wasn’t required to cast a vote.
The Mayor tells KPCW it’s a very difficult issue, and he still isn’t sure what his decision would have been.
When the Coalville City Council held a public hearing and a vote on Wohali on Dec. 9th, the absence of one Council Member, due to a medical procedure, left four Council members with the decision. And Mayor Johnson thought he might have to cast a tie-breaking vote.
However, Wohali got its approval by 3 to 1.
In the end, Mayor Johnson said his major concern was to make sure that the city was protected, given the impacts of a project proposing 570 residential units, 130 nightly-rentals, and a golf course.
The developers have promised the public will have access to the golf and the trails in the development.
The Mayor said those are benefits for locals who like to use those amenities.
A more basic issue is tax revenue. He said the applicants presented claims that Wohali will generate $3 million in revenue per year for Coalville, at build-out.
Johnson said that’s important, since now the city usually has to borrow to improve its infrastructure.
“If we want to do any major infrastructure improvements, whether it’s roads, whether it’s sewer, whether it’s water, whatever that looks like, we have to bond for it. We simply don’t have money in the coffers to pay for it. And then when you bond, you are subject then to conditions. We don’t set our own rates. We cannot set our rates for sewer. We will not be setting our rates for water once that water project’s done. And those things are done as a condition of us being able to bond and get grants for those projects. And so, to be able to have the financial freedom to set our own rates and those kinds of things may be important, to some people may not be worth the trade-off.”
The plan is that the vast majority of residences at Wohali would be second-homes, which are taxed at a higher rate. No more than 20 percent would be primary, year-round homes.
The Mayor said they’ve been thinking about how to enforce that limit.
“That conversation is still in its infancy of what that mechanism looks like. But some of the ideas going out was that, anything over 20 percent, the homeowner would then pay a fee in lieu of, every year. And so for example, if the tax revenue loss was a difference of this much, and they would pay that difference to the city.”
The approved plan also provides that Wohali can tap into 130 acre-feet of water, held by Coalville City in reserve, which will go towards irrigation on the project.
In return, Wohali must pursue the development of wet water, which would ultimately replace Coalville’s reserve water. The Mayor said if the applicants don’t find the water, they cannot build the project beyond the first phase of 106 units.
Critics also said there was a discrepancy between the amount of water Wohali would provide, and the amount required by state law and Coalville ordinance.
Johnson said they examined that claim.
“City staff has looked at this intensively, and takes the position that we are in compliance with all of our ordinances in terms of what the requirements for the development are. Our legal team’s looked at it, our engineers and planning’s looked at it as well. And they’ve worked with the state and with the developer to make sure that our bases are covered.”
KPCW also asked how Coalville could be affected if the project went belly-up financially/
“They are required to bond. The developers are required to bond at their expense. There’s an escrow account. All of this has been vetted by our Legal. And we’ve actually brought in additional legal resources to make sure that we’re covered on this.”
Coalville Mayor Trevor Johnson, who said they still have to formulate Wohali’s Development Agreement, so it’s unlikely the developers will break ground next year.