BY TOM BUSSELBERG
LAYTON — A majority “no” vote on two Layton propositions doesn’t guarantee that the land in question will revert to its old agricultural status nor that one-third acre lots will soon dot the landscape.
Proposition No. 2 went down to defeat 11,169 to 10,292 and Proposition No. 3 went down 11,208 to 10,239.
The propositions, had they passed, would have reinforced a new form-based code and new zoning for 107 acres of farmland between 2200 West and 2700 West along Hill Field Road. The City Council changed the zoning there earlier this year.
A West Layton Village mixed-use concept was touted for the land, which is owned by the LDS Church’s PRI real estate company. Representatives from the firm have said the land will not remain in farming.
The village center would’ve included retail and commercial building as well as town homes, apartments and single-family homes. However, no developer had been selected for the project and no plans were submitted to the city.
“Right now the property would go back to agriculture, which is what it was before it was re-zoned in April,” said Council member Joyce Brown.
However, any number of options could be considered by the landowner in the future, she said.
“The village code was complicated and full of rules meant to limit the developer and protect surrounding landowners,” said West Layton resident Jeremy Davis.
“The complexity isn’t something that can show up on a 2x4 sign and likely took more time to study and understand than the average citizen was willing to spend,” he said.
Davis doesn’t believe the vote provides a mandate to build the land out as third-acre lots.
“Twenty years from now the west side will be built out and we will need some light commercial, retail, office, and yes, affordable housing options in that area,” he said. “We can do better than strip malls and 12- or 24-unit apartment buildings, and I felt like this proposal did that,” he said.
“From the beginning, we sincerely tried to do the right thing,” said Jay Ripley of Citizens for Responsible Growth in West Layton, which opposed the amendments.
“I think the majority in Layton want more of a slow growth instead of urbanization,” he said.
While he is pleased with the outcome, Ripley said he feels “bad about the kind of anger and division that has developed.”
Controversy erupted over the weekend as the city’s voter information guide was joined by one produced by opponents of the West Layton development and circulated throughout the city.
It was created to look a lot like the city’s, causing confusion for some voters.
Moving forward, City Attorney Gary Crane said the city council and planning commission could try to design code provisions for a new village center. They could also rezone the property using existing zoning.
“The master plan calls for commercial business, residential and high density residential,” he said. PRI could come up with a plan for development using that zoning, or it could ask for it to be rezoned agricultural, which the firm has said they don’t want.
Councilman Jory Francis, who lives within a stone’s throw of the property, said the council needs to proceed under the citizens’ vote.
“I was really hoping to see it developed as I perceive it in a nicer way” he said. “It will have commercial, that’s a given. That node has been designated for 25 years to serve the west side of the city.”
The council studied about 40 projects across the country similar to the Village Center concept. In many instances, surrounding property values typically went up dramatically and crime decreased because of neighbor interaction, Francis said.
The old plan called for apartments on Gentile and 2200 West, with no restrictions on building height or number of units, Councilman Mike Bouwhuis said.
“The best example of what it could look like (now) is the Smith’s (Food & Drug) superblock with duplexes, apartments, single family, a gas station, pizza, McDonald’s,” he said.
A developer could do that under the old zoning, including building a massive parking lot, something not allowed in the Village Center zone, Bouwhuis said.
“There are 1,000 acres out there that can be developed. We were trying to establish a blueprint for a better development, spent two and a half years,” he said.
“I hope we can reset now. There’s so much intensity on this issue. I see this as a mandate for the city to figure out how to improve that trust quotient” with residents, Francis said.