Land use planning in an optional form of Weber County government

Over the decades, different County Commissions of our three-commissioner form of Weber County government have dealt with land use planning in Ogden Valley quite differently. Prior to about 1998, we were allowed to elect our planning commissioners and I don't recall the county commissioners ever overriding a decision of our "Township Planning Commissions" (we had three). Then around 2000, the county commissioners eliminated the township scheme and created a single appointed Planning Commission for Ogden Valley (another one for the rest of unincorporated Weber County). Now for almost two decades of this approach we have seen County Commissions sometimes agree with the decisions of our Planning Commission (most of the time) and sometimes reverse them entirely. I certainly remember the recent override of our General Plan...from "NO bonus density" to "bonus density if...".

Currently, it works like this: Our Planning Commission makes recommendations to the three-person County Commission who accepts them... or not (the bonus density issue was a 2-1 vote). Another aspect of our current county government is organizational; that is, the Planning Director reports to one of the three commissioners. These days it seems the Planning Director is reluctant to advance any new land use ordinances, or changes, unless he has a pretty good idea his boss will like them.

If voters approve a study of optional forms of Weber County government, a "study committee" will create an "Optional Plan" (there is little doubt that status quo will be rejected). This Plan must include how our new county government will work, including land use planning functions for unincorporated Weber County. Remember that 94% of Weber County population has locally controlled land use planning through their town and city governments and really don't care about our planning issues. And also remember that it will be these 94% who vote for a new form of government as well as the commissioners or council will not be the wishes of the 3% of us who live in the Valley.

The "study committee" process requires public hearings and forums which may give us a chance to tell the committee our concerns about how land use planning for the Valley will work. Here are some concerns and ideas I can think of (August, 2018).
  • Commissioners or council members elected by district will NOT include one solely to represent Ogden Valley (we will be combined into a bigger district). Even so our representative could represent us well, but they will only be one vote of many votes, perhaps seven, ...and the seven could be vetoed by a Mayor when it comes to legislative matters (i.e., changes to land use code in the Valley).
  • The only land use planning matters that will make it to the county commission agenda will be from unincorporated Weber County. Part time commissioners or council members, particularly those elected to represent people specifically in towns and cities, will have little knowledge or perhaps even interest in land use issues that go on in the Valley. Certainly the officer who represents the Valley should somehow have more sway over county planning staff and Valley planning decisions.
  • We can lobby for a Plan that goes back to the township model where elected planning commissioners make the land use decisions with voter-granted authority (as they do for the other 94% of county citizens).
  • We can lobby for a Plan where commissioners or council members are all elected at large so that none are focused on the cities and towns they represent. Or at least a Plan where the districts do not align with city/town boundaries.
  • We can ask the committee to look carefully into the "urban county structural form", which may allow for a better way to conduct, and even pay for Valley land use planning.
But if we are unable to create a model where our land use planning functions are at least as good as they are now, then we face the choice of (a) worse government for us, or (b) incorporate and become the smallest (Huntsville) and 5th smallest (of 16) towns in Weber County, but with much greater control of our destiny.


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