Tree Streets compromise proposed

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    By RODNEY ZWAHLEN

    After months of debate, research and more debate, the residents of the Tree Streets and Pleasant View neighborhoods are one step away from reaching a compromise.

    The Provo City Planning Commission voted 4-2 Wednesday to send a recommendation to the City Council that would allow absentee landlords to remain absent until they sell their property.

    This decision, made before a packed City Hall, is against the recommendation of the special committee designed by Mayor Lewis Billings to research the issue. The committee, in agreement with Tree Streets neighborhood chair Ray Christensen’s proposal, suggested that within five years owners be required to occupy at least half their owned unit.

    The committee said this five-year amortization, or “grandfathering” period, would be long enough to allow absentee owners to recover the cost of their investments.

    Others, including the four concurring Planning Commission members, said the City Council should extend the “grandfathering” time to allow absentee owners to make the profit they intended when they bought their property.

    “I think it would be a wonderful compromise to have the personal ‘grandfathering,'” said resident Lance Long, who initially agreed with the five-year proposal. “I think it’s a win-win situation.”

    John Stohlton, who doubles as Assistant Administrative Vice-President at BYU, was the member of the Planning Commission who made the recommendation. He reminded residents that the decision is not final.

    “We’re a recommending body, and the City Council has the final decision,” he said.

    Many affected residents took the podium to express their opinions at the meeting.

    Those in favor of Christensen’s proposal said owners should be required to occupy their property within the next five years, with a maximum of four renters allowed to occupy an auxiliary apartment such as a basement thereafter.

    According to the Provo Planning Commission staff report, “This proposal is about prohibiting outside investors from targeting these neighborhoods, buying up homes and essentially creating duplexes that do not contribute to overall stability of the neighborhood.”

    Resident Becky Ellis supports this proposal.

    “I grew up in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood has shrunk because when owner un-occupancy occurs, it creates a vacuum as far as the social, neighborly community is concerned,” she said. “The people who own the house and live in California are not adding to the schools and social system of the neighborhood.”

    Those against the proposal said they do not disagree with the goal to keep the community stable, but also said they should be able to rent out their property until they decide to sell. Many said the five-year amortization would unfairly rob them of expected profits.

    Absentee landlord Charlie Thomas, who recently bought a home with the purpose of renting, expressed this view in the Tree Streets neighborhood meeting two weeks ago.

    “We have BYU-approved housing that’s brand new and that we keep clean,” he said. “I don’t want someone else deciding the fate of my property.”

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