A proposal to alter the county's master plan to permit residential development of five-acre parcels in unincorporated areas currently zoned for 40-acre lots could prove to be a hot potato for county officials.
County Commission Chairman Brent Morris said the revisions are overdue, but he predicted that proposed changes likely won't sit well with some landowners. "Planning is always an emotional issue. But you have to adjust to changes and demands," he said.Several public information meetings will be held to gather input on proposed zoning and master plan changes, which were prepared by Dudley & Associates. The county hired the firm in 1987 to review county zoning ordinances.
Public hearings will follow the public information meetings.
Dudley consultant Randy Deschamps presented a summary of 19 major changes to the Planning Commission on Tuesday. The last major zoning changes were made in 1976, when a 40-acre agricultural zone was created. Previously, unincorporated zones ranged from one to 20 acres.
The most controversy is expected to come from a recommendation allowing certain areas of the master plan's 40-acre zones to be converted into a zone permitting five-acre rural residential lots. The change would allow landowners in the 40-acre zone to request a zoning change to create the smaller residential zones.
Land around Benjamin, Palmyra and Lake Shore likely will be affected if the proposal is approved.
Morris said many landowners in unincorporated areas complain that they are unable to develop their land residentially.
"That is the biggest complaint I receive," Morris said. "You have to be willing to adjust to changes and demands."'
Those requesting that their land be rezoned for five-acre lots can expect taxes to go up to cover the cost of utilities and other residential services. The revised ordinance, however, would not force higher taxes from landowners who don't want their land zoned into smaller parcels.
Because farmers will still be able to maintain their larger agricultural zones despite adjacent five-acre lots, Planning Director Jeff Mendenhall said he doesn't anticipate any large-scale opposition to the proposed zoning changes.
"One house every five acres will not cause that great a problem," he said. "I don't really have a problem with the way the proposal is going at the present time. We've been working with the consultant pretty closely over the last month and a half."
Mendenhall also dismissed worries that the revision would lead to uncontrolled development in unincorporated areas.
"Nothing will be totally uncontrolled," he said, because development will proceed according to what is permitted under the zoning revision. Mendenhall added, "The change doesn't mean everyone immediately will rezone their land and run out and build houses every five acres."
Still, proposed changes in the county's master plan worry some local landowners and planners.
"I think it's very important that we follow the Utah County master plan that already establishes zoning and development guidelines," said Planning Commissioner Elaine Englehardt.
Englehardt called the recommended revisions "a well-thought-out compromise," but said she expects many agricultural landowners to oppose any rezoning. One reason for the opposition is that rezoning likely will affect the value of some land parcels more than others.
Morris said he hopes most landowners will be happy with whatever final master plan changes, if any, are approved by the Planning and County commissions.
"We want to be as equitable as we can to all landowners," he said.