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Heber City Council Debates Density In North Village Overlay Zone

Heber City

Heber City Council met in a special meeting Wednesday evening to discuss zoning ordinances for developments seeking annexation into the north end of the city along US Highway 40.

The previously entitled Sorenson development will add 5,700 units to the north of current city development, between the Wasatch commons apartment complex and State Road 32, over 40 years.  

Now, other properties along US 40 to the north of Heber’s current development are now also seeking annexation into the city. The city completed the annexation of the Sorenson property in late May.

Council looked at equivalent residential units (ERU) granted by the county to five developments. Depending on their highest density bonus, some developments could have an ERU as high as 9.8 and 9.5 per acre. Others could go as low as 2.6 and 3.15 ERUs per acre.


Developers can earn bonus density based on the amenities they provide. Although some council members objected to high density in the area, council member Mike Johnston said high density is needed to create the walkable “village” atmosphere the general plan laid out.


“If we want a successful village here, we need the density,” Johnston said.” Someone was talking about, ‘how are we going to provide for 6,500 to 10,000 people.’ This will fail without that kind of density. It will fail; there will be no village here. If you want those kinds of things, they have to go together. I actually think there’s almost too much commercial for the small amount of people that’s going to live there.” 


Mayor Kelleen Potter argued that the current density is already a compromise that Heber residents don’t want to make. 


“When we did Envision Heber we told people, look, would you rather have a bunch of houses all spread out, would you rather have them clustered,” Potter said. “And that’s where we came up with these villages. I think that if people could say, we’d rather have nothing up there or we would rather have a couple of homes on five acres, that would’ve been their first choice. But there was an assumption that we’re going to have a bunch of people so we might as well stick them close together. Well now we’re saying that if you want a village, we’re going to have to give even more density, to make a village successful and I think that’s what’s distasteful. Even more and more people to get this village when if that’s what’s going to go, we don’t even want the village in the first place.” 


Johnston said there’s nothing the city can do to prevent development except to buy the land, he pointed to the greater success of avoiding sprawl in the zoning of the Sorenson Annexation. 


“Thousands of acres above this which is all public open space. We are densifying these areas, and I’m hoping by doing this we can also preserve the north fields as agriculture.” 


The council and staff discussed whether the proposed developments along US 40 represented a clustered village or urban sprawl along the roadway.  


Council also discussed items such as dark color palettes for the buildings, stormwater drainage, HOAs and other items for two hours. Council sent items of concern for staff to address as they plan to pick up the issue again at their meeting on July 7.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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