After an hour and a half of discussion and bargaining Midway City Council directed city staff to prepare an agreement with Watts Enterprises to amend the approved master plan for Remund Farms.
Remund Farms is a development in Midway located at approximately 200 East and 600 North near Memorial Hill. The developments master plan was approved by city council years ago and the plan is currently in its first phase. Watts Enterprises came to the city recently hoping for amendments to the master plan. Development master plans can be amended if the city and developer mutually agree to the amendments.
The developer asked for four amendments to the master plan. Two requests have received little pushback from the public and the council. One is making adjustments to the driveway and dimensions of a single building. The other request with little controversy is shifting the lots of four units to improve their viewsheds.
The other two requests received more pushback previously. One was in regard to backyards and wetlands. Federal regulations prohibit building in wetlands. Midway City has further protections, their code requires a 25-foot buffer around wetlands unless the city grants an exception.
Watts Enterprises have requested to create 12-foot-deep backyard areas in what is currently common space behind 37 units. The original request would have seven units’ backyards go into the 25-foot wetlands buffer. After discussions between the developers and city planning staff that request has since been changed. Now, the request is for 30 units to be granted the 12-foot back yard area, none of those backyards come within 25 feet of wetlands. Midway City Planning Director Michael Henke explains why the developer would like the backyards.
“The intention of the private area is to allow an area for somebody to have a deck, for instance or a garden boxes or a hot tub,” Henke explained. “This would include pergolas or even decks with a roof. Currently what’s allowed–there’s common area around each building pad so you can’t encroach on that common area with any of those types of items. This would allow some flexibility with, not all the units in the subdivision again there’s over 90 of them, but 30 of them would have this option. Having some area behind the pad that they could use for purposes that normally wouldn’t be allowed.”
Additionally, the fences in the back yard have restrictions to make sure they would not be sight obstructive.
Finally, the fourth request was to split the phasing of the project from three phases to eight. Having more phases would mean the developer would be able to spread the risk of building the development, it would also mean more public hearings and city staff resources for each phase approval. Additionally, the undeveloped phases pay a lower tax rate now they will when they are developed. The request for eight phases was compromised to six at last city council and most recently to five phases. Watts Enterprises President Russ Watts explains they’re just trying to prepare for a potential economic slowdown, noting they were the only developers of about eight in Midway that survived the 2008 economic downturn.
“It’s just the nature of development,” Watts said. “We’re not trying to do anything that’s deceitfully or divisive. It’s just more we need to be smart how we approach it. It’s just an approach we’re taking it’s not trying to dodge any obligation. Just making sure we don’t have too many units. The economy is slowing down right now, it’s changing, we’re seeing a change right now. I’m just trying to be wise, and it benefits both. I know Wes when the economy tanked there was communities all around. He had to chase bond money and try to get things finished; it was tough.”
City Council member Jeff Drury emphasized that there is already an agreement in place and that any changes to the master plan needs to benefit both the city and the developer.
“I’m largely not comfortable making a lot of changes to our established development agreements,” Drury continued. “Unless there is a large benefit to the citizens, and everyone within Midway. Three of the items I don’t see those as being large concerns and probably adding to those individual units within the development and adding to the quality for future citizens. As far as the phasing goes, I don’t see a reason that we should change that. I don’t see a compelling reason or a benefit to the citizens of Midway to change that.”
After further discussion Watts agreed to grant a public trail easement on trails built in the project and to build a trail on connecting 300 north and River Road running through the development. In exchange for the trails the city would allow for the amendment of three phases to five.
Midway City Council voted unanimously to ask staff to prepare the agreement which will likely be voted on the next time it appears before the council.
Read the original story at KPCW.org