Coalville referendum organizers have gathered enough signatures to put the Wohali development on the ballot in June

The Park Record.

Coalville residents will be able to vote on a massive new development on the city’s west side after referendum organizers collected more than enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot in June.

A vote overturning the project’s December approval, however, likely wouldn’t stop development on the land. The developers were set to present an alternative plan Tuesday that includes more than 100 homes and that officials have indicated is allowed without a change to the zoning.

Lynn Wood, a referendum organizer, said referendum advocates submitted nearly 100 more signatures than were required and did so two weeks before the deadline.

Wood said the Summit County Clerk’s Office validated 305 of the signatures, exceeding the 241-signature threshold and paving the way for a midsummer vote on the controversial Wohali development. County Clerk Kent Jones confirmed that the petition had met the signature threshold and said that it is now up to Coalville to arrange for the measure to be put on the ballot.

Public comment has been overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed 700-unit, golf-course-centered development in the nearly two years since the City Council voted to effectively double the size of the city’s boundaries by annexing 1,700 acres where the project would sit.

The Coalville Planning Commission was scheduled to have a work session Tuesday night on a second proposal from the developer that shows what they would seek to build if the results of the referendum overturns their original plan.

The new plan calls for 125 homes and 303 nightly rental units, as opposed to the 570 homes and 130 nightly rentals in the plan that was approved by the City Council in December.

Notably, the development would become a gated community, something developers backed away from in the original approval process. And while most of the amenities from the original plan remain in the alternative, including 27 holes of golf, miles of trails, a spa and a lodge, the public would not have access to those facilities, which developers had touted as a perk of the original plan.

The backup plan — or Plan B, as developer Jim Boyden called it — includes 445 fewer single-family homes than the original proposal, and Boyden has said that the exclusivity and seclusion of a gated community are critical to offsetting the reduction in density that the successful passage of a referendum would entail.

The developer, Wohali Partners LLC, believes it already have the major approvals necessary to build the backup plan.

Don Sargent, a planning consultant for the city, said the proposed 303 nightly rentals would be standalone cabins or cottages built to support the golf courses. He added that there isn’t much in the development code regulating this type of structure, so it is unclear whether, and how many, nightly rentals would be allowed.

Boyden said the number of nightly rental units is derived from the number of memberships the developers believe are necessary to support the golf courses.

Coalville Mayor Trever Johnson has questioned whether the city’s residents understand the scope of what would be allowed if the December approval is overturned.

Boyden characterized Plan B as essentially the first phase of the original project, meaning the first five to six years of development — construction of about 100 homes — would be roughly the same between the two.

If the referendum overturns the approved development, Wohali would be prevented from building on the western portion of its land, Boyden said, which he characterized as being miles away from Coalville’s Main Street.

Wohali has claimed that, at full build out — which is anticipated to take 25 to 30 years — there would be nearly $10 million of increased tax revenue annually from the mostly secondary residences.

That would be closer to $3 million if the approval is overturned, according to the developer’s estimates.

Boyden said there will be multiple opportunities for public input in the run-up to the vote, and his goal is to try to make sure Coalville citizens know what’s in both plans.

Wood, the referendum organizer, has said her goal has been to inform the public and fight for a project that is a better fit for the community. She has said the project threatens the city’s identity, but also that there were benefits to the city in the original proposal, including new water infrastructure the developer estimated would cost millions to build.

“The public needs to be fully aware of all the differences between the two proposals so they can vote informed,” Wood wrote in an email to the Park Record last month. “Our efforts have been to bring the choice to the people.”

The approval of the original plan, along with a zoning change that made it possible, are on hold pending the outcome of the referendum. If organizers had failed to gather enough signatures, the zoning change would have taken effect after the Feb. 24 deadline.

Now it appears the delay will last until at least June unless the referendum sponsors decide to abandon the effort.

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