A lot of people from the North Farmington area, citing concerns about "commercial creep" and traffic safety, said no to the idea during a Wednesday night public hearing considering whether to add mortuaries to a list of conditional uses in residential zones.
In the end, council members voted unanimously to table the proposed text change to the zoning ordinance until general and traffic plan work was completed. But, when looking at the types of uses already listed, others felt mortuaries fit right in.
As Farmington Mayor David Connors correctly noted, the only reason the city was even considering the change to its zoning ordinances was because someone proposed bringing just such a use to just such a zone.
Bountiful-based Russon Brothers Mortuaries has been talking with property owner Ken Pilcher about purchasing his 1.64-acre parcel at 1798 North Main and building a 8,000 square foot funeral home there. Pilcher wants to move from the site, feeling it's just not fit for residential uses any more.
When the city planning commission turned thumbs down on a proposal to rezone the property, the idea of making mortuaries a conditional use in residential zones was brought up.
In defending the proposal, Brent Russon said he believed the real "culprit in this is not us, but the UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation) which put in an overpass and off-ramp at Cherry Hill. That corner will never be the same. We offer a facility that will blend well in the community."
Opponents of the "text change" to the zoning ordinances, however, challenged the contention the site is no longer viable residential property.
Sharon Treu of 931 Northridge Road was among them. She felt the property in question would easily support a new home or two. She invited members of the city council "to drive North Main and see how many nice, new homes have been built east of Main Street."
Barbara Rencher, 931 Wilshire Court, felt North Main was "an acceptable and desirable place for residential." Like True, she felt multiple homes could be added to the lot.
Her husband Roy urged the council to "preserve continued residential use along both sides of Main Street."
Richard Heindel, 715 Somerset, however, said the real concern is "commercial creep."
"Do we want a buffer of residential," he asked, "or do we allow commercial creep all the way to Centerville?"
Marcia Bennett, 870 West Somerset, said while preserving the rural nature of the area was important, traffic safety was her real worry. She felt the proposed access to the site from Mountain Road would increase the chance of an accident. "It's a minor miracle we haven't had a death there," she said.
But Tom Bradshaw, 259 E. 100 North, supported the zone change, saying he would prefer a low-impact commercial use like a mortuary over, say, a 7-11.
David Potter, 1745 North Main, himself looking at future development, agreed with Russon that "at present, the area is just not residential any more."
"Traffic is bad in the area," he admitted, but turning to the audience, added, "and we've created it."
Property owner Pilcher noted his family has lived on the property since 1942. But, traffic, increased residential development and declining privacy had convinced him it was time to move.
"After living here 67 years," he said, "I'm really appalled at people trying to run my life and tell me what I can do with my property."
Traffic was going to increase no matter what happened to his property, much of it coming from residents of new homes built above his property. He claimed this had left him little privacy.
"Every time I go into my backyard," Pilcher said, "people come out to see what I'm doing."
As the matter went before council members, however, it was clear there was little support for a zoning ordinance text change. While sympathy was expressed for Pilcher's situation, some, like Rick Dutson, felt allowing a mortuary in could threaten the residential nature of the area in the future.
"If we allow this in," he said, "what are going to say to the next person who wants to bring a commercial use in."
He intimated that some area residents had actually considered buying the property for residential or even open space use. Most felt consideration of a zoning ordinance change was premature.