After an hour long public hearing and 670 emails, the Tooele County Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the County Commission approve a request to rezone 167 acres in Erda from RR-1 to a planned community zone.
The request was made by Suburban Land Reserve, a tax-paying real estate investment affiliate of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
If approved by the County Commission, the rezone will pave the way for a residential community to surround the Church’s Tooele Valley Temple. The residential neighborhood will be built on undeveloped land owned by the Church that has been historically used for agricultural purposes on the northwest corner of state Route 36 and Erda Way.
The Planning Commission’s positive recommendation came with a caveat, the motion for the approval included a recommendation that the County Commission should try to negotiate a lower average density for the development as they negotiate the development agrement.
A proposed plan submitted with the rezone request shows 32 acres of open space, walking trails, and parks, a pioneer cemetery, a farmers’ market area, the temple and a variety of housing styles totalling 446 units.
The overall gross density of the housing would be 2.66 units per acre, but that includes open space and the temple grounds. Lot sizes in the accompanying plan ranged from half-acre to 4,000 square-feet.
As the public hearing on the project opened, Jeff Miller, Tooele County Planning staff, reminded the planning commission and the public that tonight’s hearing was solely about the rezone request and the overall density.
The proposed community layout and other amenities would be the subject of a separate hearing, if the rezone request is approved by the County Commission.
Prior to that hearing, the proposed plans may change from what was submitted with the rezone request, he said.
Miller also noted that the planning commission received 670 emails on the rezone request. Around 93% of those emails were in support of the temple and/or the housing development. Miller broke that 93% down further, stating that around 300 of them mentioned only the temple, the remainder mentioned support for both the temple and the housing development.
Of the emails that were opposed to the rezone, the reasons mentioned included concerns with water, sewer and transportation infrastructure, the impact on schools and opening up Erda for higher density developments, according to Miller.
Some of the speakers during the public hearing echoed those concerns.
“This is not managed growth,” said Many Brown, Erda resident. “It does not consider the impact on water, education, or roadways within the county.”
Brown also objected to the public hearing being held electronically instead of allowing residents to meet face to face with the planning commission.
Miranda Smith said she was “super excited” about the temple, but not so enthusiastic about the housing development.
“The higher density takes away the feel of Erda,” she said. “People moved here for that open space. Please try to keep bigger lots.”
Gregg Zumwalt said he moved to Erda for the sense of community and rural feel.
He fears that “tons more houses and tons of more cars” may ruin the close knit community.
Benson Whitney, representing Suburban Land Reserve, explained why they were proposing the housing development around the temple.
The homes would protect the temple, providing “eyes on” the property to prevent vandalism and other “shenanigans,” he said.
The housing project also makes the extension of sewer and water infrastructure to the area, which is needed for the temple, affordable, according to Whitney.
Whitney said the variety of housing types and lot sizes would make the community diverse, allowing people of all faiths and stages of life to live near the temple.
“A newlywed couple could buy a starter home on one of the smaller size lots,” he said. “While a couple downsizing could move into one of the areas restricted for people 55 and over.”
Justin Smart, Erda resident and a member of the steering committee for the 2016 County general plan update, said the proposed development was the kind of use anticipated for the area in the updated plan.
“I support the zone change,” he said. “I’m in favor of good planning. … Growth is coming.”
Marvin Shafer, East Erda, said that he likes the plan.
“I’m excited about the temple and the development,” he said. “We have no sidewalks, places to go for a walk, or parks to visit in Erda. This will be a place we can take our kids and enjoy the people and the surroundings.”
Sheldon Birch, Erda, also supported the rezone.
“It looks well planned and designed,” he said. “It may not be perfect, but it is a benefit to the community.”
The planning commission voted 5-0 to send a favorable recommendation for the rezone request to the County Commission. Commissioners John Wright and Lynn Butterfield recused themselves from the vote. The County Commission will consider the rezone request in a future meeting.