Providence holds Saturday Town Hall concerning new development

Providence Mayor John Drew held a town hall meeting Saturday morning, Dec. 9, to discuss zoning and land use issues that have some of the residents upset.

He thought there were a little less than a hundred people crowded into the council chambers.

“There was standing room only,” Drew said. “We had more people than we had seen before for a town hall meeting.”

When he became mayor in January, he started holding Town Hall Meetings.

“We are probably the only city that holds Town Hall meetings in the valley,” he said. “We’ve probably done eight of them before this one. Some are more crowded than others.”

People were wound up about a new proposed development on the east foothills of the city.

“Cities need to have a moderate income housing plan,” Drew said. “The state code is very clear on that.”

He said city councils all along the Wasatch front are having these kinds of discussions.

A developer owns 79 acres in the foothills of the city. The owners of the property are an LLC and there are a group of investors. Those investors have petitioned Providence City Planning and Zoning and asked for a rezone for mixed use housing.

The group has been working on the process since 2004. They have developed the water rights and the infrastructure is in the ground.

Providence City Council passed an ordinance for the development in March of this year. The developers want to change the zoning so they could sell one-third to half-acre lots.

The mayor said that Utah is the fastest growing state in the country. It has the highest birth rate, and has the youngest average age, under 30. Utah has had the third greatest increases in housing costs in the past five years. He said the population of Cache Valley is expected to double in 20 to 30 years.

“Everyone thinks the development is coming from outside of the state,” Drew said. “The fact is, 80 percent is coming from within the state.”

Everyone wants their children to come back to Providence to live, Drew said.

“I want my children to be able to come back and live here,” he said. “The problem is, young families can’t afford to buy a home here.”

“There are a lot of people that cannot afford to buy a home in Providence,” Drew said. “Police officers, nurses and school teachers would all make good neighbors but they are not going to be able to afford to buy a home here.”

Affordable housing is not low income housing, he clarified.

“As a city, we have an obligation to consider the property owners’ issues, and we have had public meetings to hear all sides,” Drew said. “Our city is continuing to have a dialog with the residents about this and other issues.”

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