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Riverton’s Growing Pains

Apr 08, 2016 09:18AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Briana Kelley | briana@mycityjournals.com

South Valley - Riverton residents have a good chance of living on large lots — over 90 percent of Riverton residential areas are a quarter-acre or larger, according to a recent city report. The report comes after residents voiced concerns about recent higher-density approvals by the council. 

“Only about 10 percent of our total residentially zoned acreage is higher density than one-quarter acre. And almost half of our residentially zoned acreage is one-half an acre or lower density. That’s quite low compared to other cities in the county. We can keep the more rural feel of the original Riverton, while selectively zoning in some higher densities that allow for a good diversity in housing options. This diversity allows affordability for younger couples or empty nesters and single individuals to chose Riverton as their community in which they want to live,” Councilmember Trent Staggs said.

The report compiled the total acreage of each zoned parcel. Riverton has nearly 7,800 total acres. Almost 6,000 of that is zoned residential. Of the residential acreage, 45 percent is between a quarter-acre and a half-acre and 45 percent is a half-acre or more. This includes residential half-acre to one-acre lots, agricultural five-acre lots and rural residential lots. Ten percent of residential zoning is less than a quarter acre.

Residents opposed to higher-density rezones often state similar concerns; these concerns include increased traffic, potential loss of property value, loss of privacy for homes adjacent to the rezone and loss of a rural community feel.

Riverton City Council holds a public hearing any time an applicant requests a rezone of land use. Recently the council approved a rezone that drew a number of residents concerned about the changes at the Feb. 2 council meeting. The rezone affected six acres located at 13742 South Redwood Road and changed the property zoning from commercial gateway to RM-14, allowing multifamily development at a maximum density of 12 units per acre.  

“To me this is way too many units in one place,” Howard Jackson, a Riverton resident, stated at the meeting. Other residents wanted to avoid commercial and were in favor of the rezone. After extensive discussion, the council unanimously approved the rezone.

“I believe our densities are low overall. I haven’t compared them to surrounding cities, but I think we are lower than others ... I have been supportive of some of the other parcels rezoned from commercial to medium density residential. These ‘down zones’ in selective areas allow for more residents to support the businesses already in Riverton, while simultaneously allowing the remaining commercial pads to be more quickly taken down or absorbed,” Staggs said.

Other council members agree with the recent rezonings.

 “As a person that grew up in Riverton and then moving on to having a family of my own, I struggled to find options in Riverton where I could live. As a council member it is important for me to have those options for my children. With that I want to see a good quality product that is attractive yet affordable and high quality; with this goal densities have to come into the discussion. I just ran into a couple that I represented in District 1 that are in the empty nesters stage of life and they told me they moved. Their youngest has been gone for a number of years and they wanted something smaller with less of a yard to take care of. My view is that Riverton needs a variety of options that can accommodate the various phases of Riverton residents’ lives so they can live, work and play within our community no matter the phase in life they are in,” Councilmember Sheldon Stewart said.

The report did not include the new 583-acre development by CenterCal, LLC and Suburban Land Reserve, Inc. (SLR). The new development will be both commercial and residential, and it is undecided at this time how dense each residential section will be. The project is set at seven residential units per acre overall, which results in approximately 3,800 new units. The new developments could potentially increase overall high-density housing 4 to 5 percent, according to Staggs.

“As for the densities in the western commercial area, I’m not happy with some of the densities, but realize I have to compromise a bit for what I do want. I am very favorable of the MVP commercial area. Again, my focus will be on the land that sits right up against homes already being lived in. I will not vote for anything if it doesn’t buffer these homes properly,” Councilmember Tricia Tingey said.

“In short, I know every city needs to have some densities, but these densities need to be properly planned and thought through. It’s not something that you just put in an empty lot because the developer thinks it will be best there. We have zoning plans and need to follow them. If they need to be updated, so be it, but people purchase houses based on those zoning plans. I believe we have been too willing to change the zone at the expense of the people already here,” Tingey said.

Despite the recent council approvals for rezones from commercial to RM-14 or residential multi-family 14 units per acre, densities remain relatively low in the city. 

“Selectively downzoning from commercial to medium to high-density residential makes sense because it allows for the land to be developed and offers diversity of housing options and allows them the balance of the properties to be balanced or absorbed. [It] also allows commercial owners to have more customers. We have more people to support the businesses already there. To me, it’s more about selectively downzoning certain areas. I’m not always in favor of high-density housing,” Staggs said. 

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