FARMINGTON — Residents in a Davis County neighborhood are worried a proposal to develop some valuable east-side property could change the quiet serenity of their mostly pastoral community.
Concerns have been raised by homeowners in Farmington as a developer is planning to submit a proposal to build a mixed-use project on a swath of land that is part of an as yet unimproved 80-plus acre parcel that sits east of I-15 just north of Park Lane between Main Street and U.S. 89 up to Shephard Park. The proposed site is located in what one resident described as "our quaint, historic downtown (that) really is unique to Davis County and full of early Mormon pioneer homes and buildings."
"We live in this residential area and are not opposed to change, however, we desire to preserve the historic look and feel of the area and have a say in what is developed, literally in our backyards," said Farmington resident Inger Erickson.
But Farmington City Manager Dave Millheim said residents who live adjacent to the property in question have "unanimous support" for the proposed project.
“So far we haven’t had any property owners say they don’t want it,” he said. “Now we’ve had neighboring property owners who don’t like it, but none of the affected property owners are voicing any concerns.”
The Farmington City Council is expected to review the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday.
Erickson said language in the city's master plan proposes to "maintain Farmington as a peaceful, family-oriented, pastoral community through enforcing strict zoning ordinances and covenants, architectural standards and density restrictions. Recognize and preserve Farmington's heritage of pioneer buildings and traditions for the enrichment of its present and future citizens. Plan growth carefully to preserve an open, uncongested city whose buildings blend with and enhance the historical buildings and the natural beauty of the land and lake."
She said that current commercial development, including a luxury auto dealership, has now changed the look and feel of the neighborhood in a way that is less desirable to some long-time residents.
"The problem already exists and there is nothing we can do about it," she said. "We just don't want more of this because it is an eyesore. It's in the wrong place."
Erickson said the major issue isn't the commercial development, but the proposed east-side location.
"We want (the project) to follow the city's general plan," she reiterated.
Phil Holland, a partner with Utah-based real estate development firm Wright Development Group, said his company is doing its best to follow the general plan authored by the city and to take residents' concerns into consideration in developing the proposal for 30 acres of the overall property that his firm controls.
Currently planned for mixed-use development, Holland said his proposal is still in the early preliminary stages and no concrete plans have been made as of yet.
"There is definitely residential components to (the proposal)," he said. "There is definitely some commercial components to it, which is what that general plan (calls for)."
He added that any plan would also include keeping the community feel currently held by local residents, such as some who support uses such as owning livestock or other agricultural-type activities.
"We're absolutely sensitive to all the (current) land uses," Holland said. "We want people to enjoy their land the way the (like) to enjoy it."
Employing a football analogy, he noted that the proposal is "at the two-yard line" with "98 yards to go" before any actual developing could begin. Civic leaders and the public will have ample opportunity for input if the plan is allowed to proceed by the planning commission and the City Council.
David Dixon, a former Farmington councilman and planning commission chairman, who is an architect and 30-year city resident, said the project seems mostly reasonable. However, he expressed concern about the city's process for considering the proposal.
"This is a little unprecedented where they're taking a developer's proposed plan for an area and saying, 'We will adopt this as part of our general plan,'" Dixon said. "So instead of going through the required steps … in public meetings and involving public input with the city coming up with a plan to modify the general plan, their proposal is to just take the developer's plan and adopt that as the general plan for the area."
Noting the city's established general plan already calls for limited commercial development on the west side of Main Street and restricted commercial on the east side, Dixon questioned the rationale for allowing a developer to dictate land use and development.
"In this case, the developer's plan goes well beyond the (city's) general plan," he said. "The city should take the prescribed steps of proper public notification and — to my knowledge — that was not done."
Dixon added that attempts by residents to offer alternative plans for the project were rebuffed by the city, and the planning commission is likely to recommend approval of the developer's preliminary proposal at its upcoming meeting. He said a petition with "about a thousand signatures" was submitted to ask for a moratorium on development in order to have more time to review the proposal, but to no avail.
"So far it's fallen on deaf ears," Dixon said.
Not everyone necessarily agrees with that assessment.
Farmington's city manager said some residents have complained the city isn’t following the master plan for development, which he contends is untrue.
“We are following the master plan,” Millheim said. “What Wright (Development Group) is doing is asking to adopt a master plan which (defines) road locations and (map) connection points so when they eventually come in with (future) requests, they can say (exactly what they want).”
He said some neighboring residents may be confused about what the master plan calls for, which is reasonable development within defined limits.
“Some of the neighbors would like the (property owner) not to do anything with the property,” Millheim said. “The property owner asking to move forward with his (development ideas) for his property is (not unreasonable).”7 comments on this story
He said he is confident the process is proceeding in a fair and above-board manner and believes the city leaders and the developer are acting with the city and its residents’ best interest in mind, despite what some critics might believe. He attributed at least some of the anxiety to the fact the city is going through significant changes as it goes from being a mostly bedroom community to a more vibrant and more traditional suburban enclave with a greater blend of businesses mixed in with the residential properties.
“Farmington is going through a tremendous amount of growth pressure now. There is a lot of change happening with the West Davis Corridor, the growth of the west side (and) a new high school,” Millheim said. “We’ve got roads that need to be built, we are an extremely attractive ZIP code, housing prices are skyrocketing (and) land is getting scarcer. The residents’ world is changing quickly (and) very intensely. That causes heartburn and concern and I don’t fault them at all."