Mile Post: Change comes to Coalville
Just behind a ledge west of Coalville’s Main Street sits the 1,600 acres that have been at the center of a yearslong development controversy, one that has brought up questions of the town’s identity and ushered in a surge of candidates for public office.
After a vote this summer, the small, rural city home to the North Summit High School Braves and a history of mining and agriculture now appears poised to add “second-home community” to its list of amenities.
City councilors approved the Wohali development earlier this year, 125 homes and 303 nightly rentals split between a hotel-like lodge and standalone cabins built around more than 18 holes of golf.
Opponents of the plan at various public hearings have bemoaned the potential “Park City-fication” of the East Side city, with some saying they didn’t want the type of people who have second homes to come to their community.
At a public hearing in November, Kelly Ovard said the development would change the city forever.
“We do not need Promontory, we do not need Victory Ranch, we do not need Glenwild in Coalville. We don’t need it and most of us don’t want it,” he said, referring to other second-home developments in the region. “I do not want rich people coming in here and dictating to us how we’re going to live our lives.”
But it looks like growth is coming to Coalville anyway. The first golf course has been under construction for months, and the developers have the entitlements they need to build the rest.
In 2018, a family with generational ties to the area petitioned the city to annex 1,750 acres into its limits. At the time, the development was compared to the Promontory golf-course community in the Snyderville Basin, and the proposed annexation drew hundreds to a public hearing, many of whom opposed the plan.
Proponents painted it as a potential revenue windfall for the city without much negative impact, or supported a landowner exercising private property rights.
Opponents said it threatened the city’s water source, road infrastructure and identity.
When the annexation passed on a 3-2 vote, the city essentially doubled in size overnight.
It took 2 1⁄2 more years and dozens of public hearings for the development to receive its first approval. That plan called for 570 homes and 130 nightly rentals, as well as numerous publicly accessible amenities including the golf courses, a small commercial center, trails and a splash pad.
Residents quickly organized a referendum opposing the development. Rather than face the referendum at the polls, the developers withdrew the application and submitted a pared-down version that was approved in May.
The smaller proposal relied on only the development rights already entitled on the land. The developers contended that city officials could not refuse what was already allowed.
One point of ambiguity was the number of nightly rental units, which the city’s development code did not define. Ultimately, the developer’s request for 303 rooms was granted.
To compensate for the 400 fewer homes in the pared-down application, the developers said they had to increase the exclusivity of the development, making it a gated community with the amenities off limits to Coalville citizens.
The approved development is roughly equivalent with the original proposal’s first phase. Though it is smaller, it is still significant.
In addition to the 125 luxury homes, plans call for a grand lodge with rooms for rent and standalone cabins sprinkled throughout the property.
The development ties into the city’s water system, though the developers are constructing a secondary water system and diverting water from the Weber River to supply the golf course.
Water was a significant concern for citizens even before a drought hit this summer.
As the golf courses and homes are built, Coalville will change, though only time will tell whether its identity will, as well.
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