Oakley’s development ban has expired | ParkRecord.com

Oakley’s development ban has expired

Officials are weighing changes to the code that will guide future growth

Proposed changes to Oakley’s development code include incentives for developers to protect the Weber River corridor and provide public access to open spaces within developments.
Park Record file photo

A few weeks after the rodeo last July, Oakley officials decided to temporarily ban development to address what they saw as shortcomings with the city’s land-use plans.

City Planner Stephanie Woolstenhulme said the move wasn’t made because of a big development on the horizon, or to get ahead of an anticipated influx of applications.

“It just needed to be done for a good long time,” Woolstenhulme said. “… Conversations about subdivisions, how we want Oakley to look in the future, have been a long time coming.”

The city paused almost all new development, she said, allowing applications for small home improvements to proceed but not those for new home construction or from landowners looking to subdivide their property.

The six-month moratorium expired in late January, and on Wednesday, the Oakley Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing for the community to weigh in on proposed changes.

The draft development code is available via a link on the city’s website, as is the agenda that contains information about how to access the virtual public hearing using Zoom.

While a city’s land-use management plan might sound like the sort of dry, legalese-laden document that sits on a planner’s shelf until a dispute over a sewer line, development codes have statutory power over many aspects of how the city’s land can be used, covering topics like what sort of buildings can be built where and how tall they can be.

Unless a development code requires a percentage of the units built to be affordable, for example, or requires a certain percentage of the property be kept as open space, developers are under no obligation to include those items in their plans.

And in many cases, officials must approve or deny a project based on what’s written in the code, regardless of its appropriateness.

Oakley’s proposed code allows officials to grant additional density or height if projects include city priorities like protections for the Weber River corridor or deed-restricted open space.

By updating the code, officials are trying to ensure that upcoming developments deliver community priorities.

“There are some parcels zoned higher density in Oakley,” Woolstenhulme said. “If they get sold to a developer and there’s not a plan in place for that to be done correctly, it’d be really worrisome and problematic for the city.”

Woolstenhulme identified three main areas of focus in the new code, including sensitive lands protections, adopting the “master planned development” process to subdivide land and changing how land in different zones can be used.

The new code also includes an affordable housing component and some creative ways to achieve the city’s goals. If a five-lot subdivision isn’t a good location for an affordable housing unit, the code contemplates allowing the landowner to transfer some of the land’s development rights to areas the city has designated for higher density.

Woolstenhulme said that she hopes there will be constructive feedback on the suggested changes, which the City Council may adopt in coming weeks. The city’s general plan has already undergone a public hearing, Woolstenhulme said, which did not generate much input.

A general plan is often a less specific document that spells out a community’s vision with phrases like “strengthen the agricultural small city image of the City of Oakley,” while a development code includes particulars about how to do that.

The point of the moratorium, Woolstenhulme explained, was to give planning commissioners the time to work on the code without also having to simultaneously attend to the usual subdivision applications and other projects that come before the commission.

She said commissioners were generally on the same page, and that some of the livelier discussions centered on accessory dwelling units and nightly rentals.

Woolstenhulme called this the best and most productive code overhaul since those done in 2008 and 2012, the latter of which removed certain protections that the new code rewrite would reinstate.

“People really need to know what it says in there because things are going to change,” she said. “We really want their input.”

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