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South Valley Journal

No rezones until Redwood Road construction more complete

Dec 15, 2017 04:04PM ● By Mariden Williams

Widening Redwood Road: sacrificing traffic flow today for a smoother commute tomorrow. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

People seeking property rezones in Riverton City are going to have to hold their horses, because as of Oct. 26, city officials have enacted a temporary resolution suspending property rezone requests until February 2018.

The Riverton City Council unanimously passed the rezone moratorium in the wake of the Utah Department of Transportation's ongoing project to widen Redwood Road. In addition to creating some traffic jams, the project has also led to the demolition of several houses along the road, leaving behind a swath of raw ground buttressing up against a major roadway—prime bait for would-be property developers, in other words.

"Any land use planner will tell you that the best place to put high-density residential is close to a high-volume corridor,” said City Attorney and acting City Manager Ryan Carter. “And that can create awkwardness between the development community and the council.” 

The city council is legally required to hear out property rezone requests, regardless of whether it has any intention of actually approving them. "That creates a perception in the public that maybe someone in the council invited this, which is rarely if ever the case,” Carter said.

Since rezoning in the Redwood Road corridor could easily impact the supply of utilities and transportation infrastructure throughout the whole city, it's important that any and all amendments be made with careful consideration—and it’s hard to properly evaluate how an area should be zoned when construction isn’t even complete yet.

"The idea is that, hey, given the number of units that have been put in and everything that's going on, let's push the pause button for a little bit and take a look at our general plan," said Councilman Trent Staggs. 

UDOT’s plans for the Redwood Road widening project have fluctuated quite a bit from their initial conception to now and may well continue to do so. "There was even a time when the project, in the city's eyes, was pretty much declared dead," Carter said.

It is hoped that by the time the moratorium is lifted in February 2018, construction will have solidified a little more, at which point Riverton officials will be better able to determine what amendments, if any, need to be made to the city's general zoning plan.

The Riverton Heritage Group, a community bloc comprising residents of the area along Redwood Road and 12800 South, expressed some amount of concern that the city would be reevaluating zoning in its area. “We have broad citizen support for this heritage idea, of keeping this portion of Riverton somewhat like it used to be: with some extra space and larger lots," said Riverton resident Bob Ford, who addressed the council on Oct. 26 on behalf of the RHG.

It’s not just the residents who support this idea; the council does as well. It is unlikely that city leaders will approve any further requests for high-density residential rezones, either along Redwood Road or anywhere else.

"I think we're at tilt, so far as any more high-density housing being approved,” said Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth.

But even though city leaders don’t plan on approving any more high-density housing rezones after the moratorium is lifted, that won’t stop developers from asking anyway, and the now-vacant lots adjacent to Redwood Road are particularly tempting.

"The basic fact remains that if someone buys and aggregates several different lots alongside each other, that person may look at trying to apply for a general plan amendment and a rezone for that ground,” said Carter.

And that may not be such a bad thing, really, Carter reasons.

“If the council reviews and affirms what they think the land use should be for the area, post-reconstruction, that solidifies and doubles down to the development community that there is no interest in increasing the density along Redwood road,” he said.  “If there's a clear message that is sent out every so many years, I think that it has the effect of keeping applications from coming in to begin with."