LAYTON — Brian Pead calls it "the purest form of democracy."
For the past month and a half, Pead and a group of like-minded neighbors have been collecting signatures to bring plans for a future development in west Layton to a public vote.
"It's been a really wonderful, unifying thing," he said.
The group, calling itself Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton, is hoping voters will overturn actions by the Layton City Council last month that pave the way for development of West Layton Village, a 140-acre village center planned for the north and south sides of Hill Field Road between 2200 West and 2700 West.
The development, patterned after the Daybreak community in South Jordan, would feature a mix of residential, commercial, office, civic and recreational uses, following standards set by the city through its new Village Center zone.
On April 5, the City Council approved the zone and applied it to 107 acres of farmland along Hill Field Road currently owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The group opposing the development seeks to challenge both actions by referendum.
The other 30-plus acres planned for the project already are zoned for commercial and professional use.
"We know land has to develop. We understand that," Pead said. "We just want it to be done in the best way possible."
Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton has several concerns about the proposed development, he said, including increased traffic on Hill Field Road, Gentile Street and Gordon Avenue.
The development also would change the character of west Layton from a primarily rural area to an urban center allowing apartment buildings, said Pead, who lives about a block from the proposed development.
Several residents opposed to the project shared their concerns with the City Council during a public hearing the night of the vote. Thursday night had turned to Friday morning before the council voted 3-2 to rezone the land.
Pead said he and his neighbors left the meeting feeling like their concerns were not taken into consideration.
"We were frustrated enough after this meeting that we went ahead and put together the referendums," he said. "We think it's important enough that (Layton residents) should be able to vote on the issue."
The group has until Monday to turn in roughly 4,800 signatures on each issue to get them put on the ballot. Pead said more than enough signatures have been collected and turned in to be verified by the Davis County clerk/auditor. He plans to take a final batch of signatures to the Davis County Memorial Courthouse on Monday.
If county officials determine enough valid signatures have been collected, the issues would be put on the ballot — possibly in November. It would be up to Layton to determine whether there's enough time to get them on the ballot this year. If not, it would have to wait until next year, either during a special election or during the general election in November.
Jory Francis, one of three council members who voted for the rezone, said the discussion surrounding the referendum petitions is "healthy" for Layton residents who were not aware of the project before.
"We feel like it's a really exciting project for west Layton, and we've tried our best to keep (residents) informed," said Francis, who lives about quarter-mile from the development site.
The proposed village center and zoning for it has been in the works for more than two years, he said, when the LDS Church contacted city officials about wanting to sell the farmland.
Church officials wanted to make sure the land was used for a good purpose and not just sold to the highest bidder, Francis said, so they began working with Layton city planners on the village center concept.
The property is still owned by the LDS Church, and the West Layton Village project is being developed by the city and its planners, with assistance from consultants jointly hired by the city and Property Reserve Inc., a real-estate arm of the church.
Rather than letting a developer dictate what happens on the property, Layton worked with Property Reserve Inc. to create the Village Center zone, ensuring that anything built there would be pedestrian-oriented and include a mix of uses, highlighted by communtiy gathering places and recreation areas.
Several public meetings, hearings and workshops about West Layton Village were held over the past two years to get public feedback on the project, Francis said. The recent opposition to the project came after several changes were made to appease concerns of other residents, he said.
If the issue goes to a public vote, Francis said he's confident that residents will side with the City Council.
"I know they they think this is a great plan," Pead said. "I know they think it will be nice for Layton. I get that. We just disagree."
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