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18 months after approving a golf course resort, Coalville is reexamining the code that allowed it

COALVILLE, UNITED STATES - Sep 06, 2016: Grayscale shot of a city light pole on the quiet weekend streets of Coalville, UT
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Coalville is reexamining the part of its development code that allowed the Wohali golf course community to have 303 nightly rental units.

The Wohali golf course resort in Coalville was approved to include more than 300 nightly rental units. Now, the city is reconsidering the code that allowed that type of development.

When drawn on a map, Coalville resembles a capital “L” lying on its side, with the long leg sticking out to the west and the short one pointing to the north.

The city annexed the 1,800 acres that make up the long part of the “L” in 2018 amid extensive opposition. Residents at the time worried that what developers were proposing for the land — a 500-home luxury development called Wohali — would tax the city’s resources, especially its water, and contribute to a “Park City” influence on rural Coalville. City officials, meanwhile, said it would be better if the project was inside the city so Coalville leaders would have a say in how it was developed.

More than 2 1/2 years later, the Coalville City Council approved a development proposal for 1,600 of those acres. Plans call for 27 holes of golf surrounded by 125 single-family homes and 303 nightly rental units spread between a lodge and standalone cabins. During the approval process, Wohali was compared to other nearby golf resort gated communities like Promontory and Glenwild.

The approval process divided the community, and multiple political campaigns for mayor and city council grew out of the effort to oppose the development.

Louise Willoughby was involved in the opposition and is now a city councilor. She said one of the first things she wanted to do in office is address a part of the city’s development code that dealt directly with the Wohali development. She suggested Coalville does not want more resort development.

In late June, the city council heard for the first time Willoughby’s suggested changes for evaluating Master Planned Developments, or MPDs.

“We can't have other developments coming in asking for this and using the MPD as a weapon to get this," Willoughby said. "We have tightened up things so they'd have to bring water now. I mean, another Wohali would never come in without their own water.”

In addition to water, Willoughby highlighted as a concern the language that allowed Wohali’s 303 nightly rentals.

Coalville’s development code does not limit the number of resort units or support accessory units that may be built in a master planned development. The original Wohali plan called for 570 single-family homes and 130 nightly rentals, which were described as support functions for the golf course.

Amid intense community pushback and the prospect of a lawsuit, the developers scaled back their request to what they said was allowed on the land under its zoning. The total number of nightly rentals in the plan, however, grew by more than 170. Though officials and members of the public questioned the amount, the number did not change, and the council approved 303.

Coalville Community Development Director Don Sargent said the Wohali developers suggested the language allowing support accessory units and resort units, and it was added to the city’s code in August 2019.

“Support accessory uses was one, resort units was another one that I recall was an insert that Wohali had recommended as part of the mixed use development application," Sargent said.

It is not unusual for developers to apply to rewrite parts of a development code. Sargent said Coalville’s planning commission and city council reviewed the proposals at the time, thought they made sense and approved them.

Now, Willoughby wants to remove that language from the code, and a Coalville City Council with several different members is reviewing her suggested changes. Willoughby said she believes her proposals have some support among her fellow councilors.

Willoughby said she’s focused on the future. She said the planning commission, council and mayor are working together to prepare Coalville for additional growth.

“We are trying to heal," she said. "We want to undo anything that is going to make it so we can't live there, our posterity can't live there, we won't have water, it's going to be too expensive because of sewer. We're trying — we're trying to do things to make it so Coalville is affordable.”

It appears Coalville’s growth-related work is not done. The city scheduled a public hearing next week about the Red Hills Ranch project, which would add 349 single-family homes to the city’s south side — increasing the city’s number of homes by 60%. And south of that is the Cedar Crest Village Overlay area, which could add hundreds, or thousands, of additional homes to the area.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.