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Some residents who want out of new town ‘West Hills’ denied

The proposed town of West Hills comprises about 3,200 acres west of Kamas, from Democrat Alley to the Wasatch County border.
Lindy Sternlight
The proposed town of West Hills comprises about 3,200 acres west of Kamas, from Democrat Alley to the Wasatch County border.

Utah law says residents can't leave a proposed incorporation if doing so would create an island or they don't hold enough land.

That’s the situation for multiple homeowners within the newly-envisioned “West Hills,” a proposed town between Hideout and Kamas.

West Hills’ supporters say incorporation will encourage “modest new growth,” but others fear the area will lose its rural character.

Resident Katie Cannarella doesn’t want her property included in the new town.

Utah’s lt. Governor’s office rejected Cannerella’s request because her property is surrounded by the rest of the incorporation on the south side of state Route 248, so her removal would create an island.

Roger Stephens, who lives on north Democrat Alley, tried to opt out too. The lieutenant governor also rejected his request because he doesn’t hold enough land—to leave, owners must have 10% of the total incorporation area, which is more than 3,000 acres, or 1% of the total land value.

“And I said, ‘Well, all my neighbors are against it. Can we do it as a class deal and opt out?’ And he says, ‘No, you can't,’” Stephens told KPCW.

One of their neighbors, Andrew Bath, didn’t know he could opt out. He’d now like to—he’s spent his whole life in the Kamas Valley and says he doesn’t want to see it overdeveloped.

“The Kamas Valley has changed so much,” he said. “I mean, they're caving in to the pressure, I understand. But isn't it a shame that we can't keep a little piece of the world halfway rural?”

The opt-out deadline passed June 10, and at least nine landowners’ exclusion requests were approved.

The lieutenant governor’s office released a study Dec. 15 that said West Hills would need the tax revenue from additional development to run a balanced budget.

The prospect of higher density is the primary issue some residents oppose, and Bath says a group of them has considered going to the lieutenant governor to voice their opposition.

Bath lives across from the Ure Ranch, which Summit County is looking to purchase primarily for open space.

But according to the lieutenant governor’s office, West Hills incorporation can proceed despite the county purchasing the land. The two are separate.

700 of the ranch’s 834 acres are within West Hills. State law says the ranch can’t be excluded, because without it, West Hills would be split in half.

However, the lieutenant governor’s study says the county’s purchase may threaten West Hills’ tax base. That, and potential annexations from Kamas or Francis could hamper development and therefore taxes.

Stephens says Kamas considered annexing north Democrat Alley several years ago, but there aren’t any annexation petitions currently pending from within West Hills.

The lieutenant governor’s study has shown the town is feasible in theory, provided there’s additional development. Now, West Hills’ supporters will need to collect signatures to get it on the ballot.

Before then, the lieutenant governor’s office will hold public hearings where residents can give input. Dates have not yet been announced.

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