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Revised Wohali Project Gets Recommendation From Coalville Planning Commission

Ken Lund on Flickr

The Coalville Planning Commission on Monday night voted unanimously to recommend a revised version of the Wohali Development.

The proposal is a scaled-down version of a rural golf course and residential development, in the hills west of Interstate 80.     There has been a debate about how an increased number of nightly-rental units will fit in the plan.

The Planning Commission session was held live, rather than online, at the Ledges Center.     About 35 people attended, but were required to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

The original proposal for Wohali contemplated a rezone, with 570 residential units and 130 nightly rentals alongside a golf course and other recreational amenities.

That plan was approved by Coalville’s City Council last December.    But a citizens group gathered enough signatures for a referendum vote.

The Wohali developers withdrew that application, and therefore nullified the referendum that was headed to the June 30th primary ballot.

The revised plan, say the applicants, is a Permitted Use that can be done on the Agriculture Zone that applies to Wohali’s property.  

The project, on 1664 acres, calls for a reduced number of residential lots, to 125.   

The number of Nightly Rentals would be increased to 303, but the developers contend those units can be considered part of the Permitted Use of a golf course.

The city requested a legal opinion from David Church, a long-time attorney for the Utah League of Cities and Towns.    He told the audience that under the city’s code, a Recreation use can include a golf course and support facilities.   And city code doesn’t define ‘support facilities” or prohibit Nightly Rentals.

About ten residents spoke in the public hearing.   Almost all were skeptical of the project—asking about the inclusion of the nightly rentals, how the project will obtain water, or how it will impact the character of Coalville.

The Planning Commission vote recommended the project as a Permitted Use; a Master Plan Development; and a Phase One Preliminary Plat.

After the meeting, attorney Polly MacLean, representing the group Coalville For Responsible Growth, said they were disappointed in the decision.        

“We feel that the Nightly Rentals are questionable, and that the number is really, can really explode, and really exploit this project.   The way that they are defining it, it just is a free-for-all.  A Nightly Rental is a dwelling.  And it’s a use of a home that allows for rentals nightly.  And so to say that all of a sudden you get unfettered number of units to use as Nightly Rentals doesn’t make any sense at all.”

One of the critics, Lynn Wood, said that 303 nightly rentals is just too much.  And MacLean said there are too many questions left.      

“In addition, there are just so many unknowns to this project.  We don’t even know how big these Nightly Rental units will be.  They talk about them being one bedroom, five bedrooms.   There’s just a lot of unknowns.   The devil is in the details.  And the Development Agreement was never hammered out.   It’s still not hammered out.  And until the city has that information, it really shouldn’t go forward until they know exactly what they’re getting with this project.”

Meanwhile, the private planner for Wohali, Eric Langvardt, said they were excited to get the project moving forward.       

“This is our base-zone application.  Honestly, we looked at Coalville City’s code and determined that this was a format that we could apply to our project and still make it feasible to have a golf community, a golf resort and associated housing and lodges and cabins, and the village setting, which is not dissimilar from our rezone application.”

We asked him about the critics who said Nightly Rentals shouldn’t be on that property.        

“Everybody says that Nightly Rentals aren’t allowed in this zone.  Well they’re not allowed in any zone in Coalville, and you heard that tonight.  But our uses that are allowed, like the lodge that is accessory to the golf course, can be rented as Nightly Rentals.  And so that’s the distinction that I think keeps getting forgotten.”

He said Wohali will be a crown jewel for Coalville, and fits with the town’s General Plan.     

“I almost wonder if the people that put this code together didn’t say, “Look, if somebody has the property that’s spectacular enough, and the wherewithal to build a golf course on an AG-zoned piece of property, maybe the people that drafted that code actually understood that you need the support facilities to make that viable.  Because in the end, it brings all sorts of tax base to the city.  And that’s what we’ve been preaching all along.  We think the only change to existing Coalville City is going to be for the better.”

Lynn Wood said she’s looking ahead to a City Council meeting in the near future.   And she said that attorney Church’s opinion isn’t definitive.      

“I mean, there’s so many legal interpretations.  You’ve heard one tonight.  And we can bring in another attorney tomorrow that would give you exactly the opposite opinion.   I mean, it happens with the judges all the time, legal experts, where things are overturned by an appeals judge.   And so we think there’s another legal interpretation, we think one that favors our General Plan better.  But we do want to see a successful project, and we’re looking forward to what the Council does.”

Coalville resident Lynn Wood.

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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