Wohali’s June referendum is off after developers withdraw original application, though a second, smaller proposal remains

This rendering shows the Wohali development site on the west side of Coalville. The 1,500 acres were annexed into the city in 2018. On Dec. 9, the City Council approved the development’s preliminary plan after hours of public comment against it. At full build-out, the second-home community would feature 570 homes, 27 holes of golf and 130 nightly rental units. The first phase is planned to include a golf course and 102 homes.
Graphic by Ben Olson/Park Record; Image courtesy of Wohali

The June referendum on a massive proposed development in Coalville has been called off after the developer scrapped its most controversial application and referendum organizers withdrew their legal opposition to it Thursday.

While the original proposal for Wohali has been discarded, construction has already begun on a golf course that will serve as the centerpiece for the developer’s scaled-back proposal — a gated community of 125 homes and 303 nightly rentals on the west side of the historic rural community.

That proposal is working its way through the city’s planning process, and while it has not been approved, much of it is allowed by the land’s current zoning, officials have said.

The first plan, which called for a 700-unit second-home community, was approved in December but was being challenged via referendum in the June 30 primary election.

Opponents of the first plan are calling the withdrawal of that application a win, posting a picture of fireworks along with a blog post announcing the change.

“Our group is thrilled the referendum has been resolved in this way and see it as a huge act of goodwill from the developer,” organizer Lynn Wood wrote in an email to The Park Record. “Now the time, money and energy that would have gone into an election can be put to better use.”

The project has met with consistent opposition in public meetings dating back to 2018 when the 1,800 acres were annexed into the city, which effectively doubled the city’s size.

Last December, the City Council approved the first, larger proposal after a series of contentious public hearings. When it became clear earlier this year that opponents were going to try to stop the development at the ballot box, the developers submitted a “Plan B” to the city that showed what they claim they are already entitled to build on the land.

Developer Jim Boyden said in the process of developing that plan, Wohali Partners, LLC, saw that the scaled-down project would pencil out, and decided to heed community concern and withdraw the larger proposal.

“We as a developer heard pretty clearly from Coalville for Responsible Growth the density we’d received approval for is too much,” Boyden said. “It was just fraught with controversy, difficulty — felt we needed to get on with being good neighbors. Can still do a project that works for us. Want it to be something that Coalville looks at and is excited about and happy with.”

The original plan included amenities that would have been open to the public like miles of trails, a splash pad and a village core with a small commercial area, but Boyden said they would not be public in the new proposal.

“There will still be trails, but it’ll be a private community,” he said. “I think with the reduction in density, we need to do what we can to improve the value of each parcel of real estate within the community, and having it be gated helps accomplish that.”

While the developers say the land’s zoning allows the project they’re proposing, the specifics still need to be settled.

The application calls for a 125-home community centered around 27 holes of golf with 303 nightly rentals split between a hotel-like lodge and standalone cabins. Boyden said the developers have not decided on the number of cabins.

Work started May 1 on the first 18-holes golf course after the city approved a building and excavation permit last month. Golf courses are allowed uses in the land’s current zoning, and an appeal of the permits failed at Monday’s City Council meeting. Boyden said the golf course construction would take about 2 years.

The land’s current zoning allows for 83 residential units across its 1,664 acres, a number that increases by 50%, to 125 homes, because of open space incentives in the city’s development code.

But the city’s planning consultant Don Sargent has said there isn’t much in the code regulating the proposed 303 nightly rental units, which the developers are calling a support function of the golf course.

It is unclear how many units and cabins the city might approve.

Wood said the nightly rentals and the water supply for the golf course are the biggest items of concern for opponents of the development, and they appear to be the key issues for the approval process.

Next up is a city Planning Commission meeting Monday and a public hearing anticipated in the coming weeks.

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