Some Utah County officials found themselves surrounded Thursday night by landowners who don't like the way politicians are regulating their lives.
County commissioners and members of the county Planning Commission were at American Fork Junior High School to hear public comments about several proposed changes in the county's master plan and zoning ordinances for unincorporated areas, including loosening restrictions on building houses in agricultural areas.About 60 people attended the meeting, and nearly all of those who spoke said they support a proposal to allow houses on lots as small as five acres, rather than the current 40-acre requirement. The change would affect only certain areas of the county's agricultural zone, as designated by the Planning Commission.
But many residents said people ought to be able to build on their land at their own discretion, even if the plot is as small as one acre.
Lehi farmer Eldon Beck said Utah County is unique in requiring that land owners have at least 40 acres before they can build houses on their property.
"If you've got land you ought to have the right to build on it. (Bringing the minimum down to) five acres is a big step, but I'd like to see it go down to 1 acre," he said.
Another county resident, Norman Miller, said politicians have no business regulating in any way how people use their property.
"I really wonder why we have so many zoning ordinances. Why do we have all these problems?" he asked. "I think if a man wants to build a home on a one-acre ground, that's his business. I don't think government has the right to control our property the way it does. Why do we pass all these laws that drive people into corners?"
Many of the landowners who attended the meeting said the government has boxed them in. Those who have farms that fall just short of 40 acres can't live on their own land because of zoning regulations.
Jeff Mitchell has a 35-acre apple farm in American Fork, but he can't live on his land.
"I would like to build a home. I agree with the proposal," he said. "The way it is now, I can't go out there and build a home on that piece of land."
Many landowners support the change even though a zoning change would increase the value of their land and increase their property taxes. County officials believe the average homeowner would pay about $80 more a year.
The proposed revision will not necessarily be applied to all land in currently designated A-1 agricultural zones. Representatives of Dudley & Associates, hired by the county in 1987 to review the zoning ordinance, have recommended areas in the county with the most small land parcels to be included in the change.
Utah County Commission Chairman Brent Morris said the areas targeted for change can be expanded.
"I am sure nothing is locked in concrete. There could be provisions. There is flexibility," he said.
Landowners interested in taking advantage of the zoning change should contact the Planning Commission to find out whether their area is included in the plan, Morris said.
Two more public hearings will be conducted, March 30 in Room 1400 of the County Building and April 6 in the Payson City offices. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m.
Another of the proposed changes would create a planned commercial-canyon zone for areas like Provo Canyon. The zone would require commercial developments like gas stations, restaurants and stores to build in a manner that would not detract from the surrounding environment.
Utah County is considering several changes in its master plan and zoning ordinances for unincorporated areas:
-Permit home construction in some agricultural zones on land parcels as small as five acres. The current minimum is 40 acres.
-Create a planned commercial-canyon zone.
-Create large-scale development sections for recreational vehicles.
-Establish stricter standards for gravel pit areas.
-Require that any large-scale development, regardless of its nature, receive approval from the County Commission.
"I would like to build a home. I agree with the proposal. The way it is now, I can't go out there and build a home on that piece of land." - jeff Mitchell, who has a 35-acre apple farm near American Fork but can't live on his land because of the current 40-acre requirement.