About the only consensus coming out of Thursday night's public information meeting on proposed master plan changes is that the Utah County Planning Commission is going to have a hard time pleasing everybody.
The meeting was the second of three held to gather input on proposed master plan and zoning changes, the most controversial of which would loosen building restrictions in agricultural zones within county unincorporated areas.Current zoning in those areas permits only one home per 40-acre parcel. The firm of Dudley & Associates, hired in 1987 to review the master plan, has identified selected agricultural areas for possible downzoning that would allow one home per five acres.
The proposal met with unanimous public approval during last week's information meeting in American Fork. On Wednesday, however, it received mixed reviews. While some residents said the change is overdue, others said it poses a threat to county agriculture.
"I've received suggestions that anything is better than 40 acres," said Randy Deschamps, Dudley & Associates planner.
He said the smaller five-acre lots were recommended to allow increased residential use of the land, while preserving the rural atmosphere of unincorporated areas. To allow smaller lots, he said, could result in "serious problems" resulting from too many wells and septic tanks.
Nevertheless, Deschamps told those crowded into the commission chambers that landowners could expect their property taxes to rise as a result of the downzoning.
For example, taxes on an $80,000 home on a 15-acre lot located in the north part of the county are $1,258 annually. If that same house and lot were to become part of a five-acre "rural residential zone," taxes would increase by $188 a year to cover increased costs of county services.
"There are many variations in the county that would apply depending on where you live," he said.
Setta Anderson, who works in the county assessor's office, said people building in a newly designated RR-5 zone could expect tax increases of much more than $188. She said a $188 increase likely would rise after the first year.
If approved, the zoning change would add 25,000 acres to the existing RR-5 zone, of which thousands of acres are still undeveloped residentially.
"There is not a great rush or move for people to move to the county" unincorporated areas, Deschamps said.
He predicted that half the 25,000 acres, if designated RR-5, likely would remain undeveloped. As a result, only about 2,125 additional homes would be built. Deschamps said some areas aren't suitable for homes because of high ground water and poor soils.
Mapleton Mayor Everet Predmore disagreed. "Twenty-five thousand acres means to me approximately 5,000 homes rather than 2,125," said Predmore, who works in real estate.
He said it would only be a matter of time before those in the rural areas ask to be annexed into adjacent cities so they can get better services from municipalities. Predmore said the county fire marshal can't keep up now with servicing unincorporated areas.
"This is an impact to all cities," he warned. Predmore suggested the proposal be tabled until adequate answers are found to problems that likely would occur if the proposal is approved.
But others at the meeting said it's time officials worried less about county development and more about its stagnation. Some farmers suggested that the RR-5 zone be extended to include more than the proposed 25,000 acres, and they complained about the arbitrary nature of how proposed areas were chosen for the possible change.