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Coalville Mayor Recaps A Historic Year Of Growth, Setbacks For Summit County Seat

Ken Lund on Flickr

In the year 2021, the city of Coalville is moving forward with the Wohali project, after the Council’s vote for it at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.

As Rick Brough reports, city officials judged that the project met the plain language of their code, even while the proposal has provoked some heated emotions.

The City Council on Dec. 14 granted a Master Plan Development and a Phase One Preliminary Subdivision Plat approval. The vote approved a rural golf resort development with 125 residences and 303 nightly rentals. 

Coalville Mayor Trevor Johnson told KPCW afterward that the plan was recognized as a permitted use in the Ag-Zone location west of Interstate-80. He said that was determined by the city staff; by David Church, a respected attorney for the Utah League of Cities and Towns; and an ombudsman’s opinion.

They determined that the nightly rentals are not considered residential density, but are accessory units to the golf course.

One Council Member, Rodney Robbins, continued to question if the city code allows the nightly rentals as attached units.

However, Mayor Johnson said the ombudsman’s opinion resolved that.

“In the Ombudsman report, it does state that the accessory use does not fall under the guidelines of a commercial use. And that’s what these dwellings are—I shouldn’t say dwellings—these nightly rentals are. They are accessories to the golf course. So there’s a difference between, for example, a pro shop, where they’re selling commercial products, where there are some guidelines there. There can be so many square feet, they can’t have shared walls, those kinds of things. But a lodge is an accessory use. And it’s not a dwelling, it’s a nightly rental. So that falls under a different set of guidelines which then permits them to have, for example, shared walls. They’re not confined by the square-footage restrictions either.”

The Mayor acknowledged there was some angry, heated opposition to the project.

“I understand, to an extent, I should say, that there is some animosity out there. And always, always, always, the voice of opposition is louder. We have to keep that in mind. But I think what’s happening is, as we go down this road of defining what rights the applicant has, how they’re applying, and how the current codes and ordinances are applied to their application, there’s some frustration that things are ruling in the favor of the applicant. And they are finding out, I think, that the law defines and really outlines what their rights are. And that’s the path they’re pursuing. And so I think things just get a little bit more contentious, and a little bit more emotional.”

Johnson added he thinks there was some backlash to opponents, with other residents favoring the project and against the animosity directed at city staff.

He also talked about the water for the project, both culinary and the secondary source which will supply the golf course.

“Now that it’s a permitted use, their culinary water—and a case can be made, that also the secondary water, but I’ll speak to the culinary water first—is the responsibility of the city to provide, so long as they build the infrastructure, and get down to where our system can provide it. For the secondary water, it’s a little bit of a different conversation. While they can make a case that it’s also a utility, by right provided by the city to a permitted use, they have agreed to find their own water. And they are—now, this is in its preliminary stage or whatever in terms of concept, but my understanding is that they are looking at bringing that out of the Weber River, and buying shares, or paying a fee-in-lieu of water rights out of the Weber River.”

On another topic, Mayor Johnson said that during the pandemic, some businesses in Coalville have struggled. Others have done all right, while citizens have responded by shopping locally.

The Mayor said that since he has children in the school district, he has a major concern there.

“We see teenage suicide rates rising, depression rising. I think North Summit School District’s done a great job of trying to balance the safety and welfare of these kids with allowing them the traditions and the sports and those things that they’re used to, to try to not only enrich their experience throughout their school career, but certainly the seniors in giving them the best chance they can to enjoy their senior year.”

Johnson said he didn’t like having to cancel events like the traditional Light Parade, but hopefully it can return next year.

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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