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A High Density Dilemma for Riverton City

Nov 06, 2015 11:44AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Briana Kelley

 South Valley - Riverton residents once again attended a packed Riverton City Council meeting on Sept. 22 to voice their concerns about rezoning land for high-density housing. The land in debate is located at the northwest corner of 1300 West and 12600 South in Riverton. The zoning ordinance, which has failed twice before due to resident concerns, passed in a controversial 3-2 vote.

“I’m a little disappointed,” resident Daniel Strange said. “I’m disappointed that the same proposal keeps coming back. Despite people saying ‘No, please don’t,’ it keeps coming up.” Residents were concerned mainly by the density of the housing and the effects it will have on traffic and property values in the surrounding area. Residents along the property line are also concerned that the height of future buildings will negatively affect the privacy of their yards and homes.

One resident directly addressed the council during the public hearing and drew applause from the audience, causing Mayor Bill Applegarth to call the meeting back to order. The applicant, Matt LePire from Keystone Construction, was then invited to explain minor changes in the proposal. LePire eliminated many two-story units and added ramblers. The plan also scaled back the number of units per acre.

Mark Howe, the broker for the property, voiced his surprise at these changes. “This is a very unique opportunity,” Howe said. “I am taken aback that Keystone went down to one story. This is the first time I have seen that and I don’t want this opportunity to go by.”

The 8.8 acres of land were previously zoned in separate parcels; some areas were zoned residential and others were zoned commercial. The council and the mayor told residents that the issue was being revisited due to a threat of commercial being put there. “I have been surprised by how negative commercial can be,” Applegarth said. “All I’m saying is, what you have [zoned] right now, the city has no control if commercial wanted to come in.”

Councilmember Tricia Tingey called a five-minute recess before holding a vote to talk to residents. The final proposal split the property into two areas; Area A, closest to the residents, limited the density to 9 units per acre and required ramblers as end units. Area B was limited to 14 units per acre. Both had the standard setback and height requirements of 25 feet. 

Councilmembers Sheldon Stewart, Trent Staggs and Brent Johnson voted aye. Councilmembers Tricia Tingey and Paul Wayman voted nay. Tingey’s proposal to have all ramblers along the outside perimeters per residents’ request was voted down.

“I’ve been trying to find the best case scenario for this area,” Staggs said. “Having this conversation since May, I believe this is a good compromise.” Residents spoke with LePire after the vote and set up future neighborhood meetings with the construction company. Many hope that the rambler proposition will still be considered.

Not all residents were pleased by the events at the council meeting. 

“When I spoke at the council meeting, I wasn’t necessarily speaking about the issue itself,” resident Matt Symes said. “I was directing my comments towards the council and the process that occurs behind closed doors that allows them to bring back something a third time when it was voted down before. When they decided to bring it back the third time, what had changed? Nothing in the proposal had changed. I felt patronized speaking to a council that had already made up its mind. I don’t think the residents got their fair share.”      λ

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