Residents sparred with city officials Tuesday during a public hearing over a proposed overlay zone to protect undeveloped land.
No action was taken, but when residents began arguing with each other Mayor Gregg Ingram stood up and adjourned the meeting. The City Council, meeting jointly with the Planning Commission in the city firehouse, gave no indication when it will rule on the issue.The two bodies are considering a sensitive-lands overlay ordinance, a regulation placing restrictions on zoning. Most residents at the hearing labeled the proposed ordinance an unconstitutional taking of their land. But city attorney Denton Hatch disagreed. He said the local government was taking the ordinance through the due-process requirements in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"I don't see anything in the ordinance unconstitutional on its face," he said.
Residents said current ordinances already protect the rolling foothill community in south Utah County. But Planning Commissioner Ernstine Folks said the sensitive lands ordinance takes regulation "a step further and defines what to do."
The proposed ordinance aims to minimize flooding, erosion and other hazards, said Stewart Jolley, vice president of the Planning Commission. The ordinance calls for identifying drainage channels, setting aside those channels in easements that can't be disturbed and determining how close to a channel buildings can be constructed. The goal, said Jolley, is to let the ground handle runoff on site. A 25-year storm should have no impact and a 100-year storm should have minimal impact, he said.
When residents complained that they already are threatened with flooding because of development, City Councilman Vernon Fritz said the drainage structure above their property was poorly designed. He also said the 100-year storm that recently caused some flooding in Elk Ridge was unanticipated, but steps were being taken to correct the drainage problem.
The overlay zone would also regulate cuts and fills and the restoration of vegetation where those took place to prevent erosion. It would have rules on how close to a cut a structure could be built and would require that cuts and grading should be kept at a minimum.
Fire protection is also addressed. Water lines must produce at least 40 pounds of pressure before a building permit would be issued and residents may not use private pressure tanks, Jolley said. Spark arrestors would be required for all fireplaces in the zone.
The ordinance suggests that streets and roads follow the natural terrain. Driveways longer than 150 feet would have to be built to support fire trucks and other emergency vehicles with enough clearance for them to get through. Fire hydrants would be necessary in some instances, he said.
A map defining the sensitive-lands area covers most of Elk Ridge, but residents noted that it fails to cover much of the area already developed. Builders must comply with the ordinance, if passed, to be able to build.
Resident and builder Don Mecham called the proposal "administrative condemnation."
"You're tromping on people's constitutional rights," he said. "This is Big Brother jumping in our bedroom."
"Let these people have the right to use their property the way they see fit," said Ken Burton. "Big government wants to control everything."
Resident Paul Liston said current controls have limited the use of his 20 acres to four-wheeling and paying taxes. He said because of restrictions already in place the number of lots he would be allowed was restricted, leading his bank to suggest he not develop the land.
"My land is virtually useless," he said. Other developers called the ordinance socialistic and questioned why it included flat areas. Another questioned why it was even being considered.
Still another resident said her ancestors came across the plains to find freedom that she said this ordinance would take away. But Folks said the sensitive-lands ordinance was needed to address ecology details current ordinances don't consider.