City council’s decision on zone change supports residents’ concerns

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Provo City Council faced questions and concerns from residents and developers about zone-changing land that is next to single-family housing to allow townhomes. (Ben Daniels)

Provo residents voiced their concerns about potential zoning changes to Provo’s City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 7. The discussion occupied the bulk of the meeting time and even extended two hours past the planned closing.

Quail Valley Drive residents from Edgemont, North Timpview and several other neighborhoods came out to speak on behalf of their communities. The council made time to listen to property owner Corbin Church’s defense and Provo citizens’ appeals against the proposition.

Robert Mills, a city planner for Provo’s Community and Neighborhood Services, was invited by the council to present the background of the zoning change request and sum up the yearlong negotiations between Church and residents. He explained that Church’s request is to change the zoning from public use, or public facilities, land to residential or low-density residential.

Church described his efforts and the efforts of the neighbors to come to a consensus previous to this council meeting. He had hoped to originally build six townhomes on the property, but after a meeting with residents, he conceded to building only four.

Other neighborhood discussions morphed into multiple requests about how the land would be used. Residents’ requests consisted of no student housing, no homeless shelters, no rehabilitation centers and no call centers. After these types of agreements were discussed, some were tabled while others raised only more apprehension about the property’s future.

Mills acknowledged, “This particular application has a little backstory and history and is frankly a very emotionally charged application.”

Homeowners spoke on the fact that the Quail Valley Drive is already infamous for wrecks and speeding. They gave further context about the problems they already have with overflow from BYU football games and Timpview High School events.

Church attested to the council that he had thought about possible uses of the land that followed the current zoning standard.

“If not four townhomes, what would you recommend go on that piece property? In its current zoning, I’m entitled to build a school,” Church explained, “That’s not going to help parking, that’s not going to help traffic. Is bare ground better than four townhomes?”

North Timpview Neighborhood Chair Bonnie Morrow warned that council decisions on zone changes could set a precedent for similar properties. She said if the council approved the zone change without proper limitations, then “basically, you are granting a pot of gold to anyone who decides to seek a zone change.”

Morrow’s concerns opened up council discussion on how they’d enforce the agreement between Church, or any future property owner, and the residents.

The council encountered the difficulty of multiple unanswered questions and intersecting concerns that stood outside the scope of the issue that threatened to delay their decision. Council Chair George Handley said that the council’s decision rested on the community’s opinion about issues of parking and traffic. Councilor Travis Hoban proffered a request that the council postpones their vote to gain further clarification and discussion.

Councilor Handley asked Church if he preferred an immediate vote or further meetings on the matter. “I want to go home, as much as you do,” Church said. “I’m not interested in putting something in the neighborhood they’re so opposed to. I’m okay with that and there’s other ways of going about this and other things to do there.”

Almost one year since the first neighborhood meeting between Church and residents, and six months from the first city council meeting on the issue, the council voted unanimously against the zone-change request. The council agreed that given the lack of community support, they could not, in good conscience, approve the change in zoning.

For a full recording of the proceedings, please visit the Provo City Council YouTube page.

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