Kaysville homeowners launch campaign to reverse city council zoning change

Thursday , September 14, 2017 - 5:15 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

KAYSVILLE — The Kaysville City Council, at least a majority on the body, may be fine with a landscaping firm using a small parcel of land east of the Sunset Equestrian Estates subdivision for storage.

Many living in the neighborhood, though, aren’t quite as happy, and a simmering controversy over the company’s presence is on the verge of escalating. 

“We’re not just going to roll over and play dead. There’s something wrong with the city council, and I say that in the most polite way I can,” said Hal Anderson, whose daughter and son-in-law own a home in the upscale neighborhood.

The acquisition last year of what had been a vacant, 1.5-acre parcel of land off Burton Lane in western Kaysville by Jim Puffer Landscape, a local landscaping firm, has been a sore point among nearby homeowners for several months.

RELATED: Kaysville zoning issue fuels dispute between homeowners, city, landscaper

Following the Sept. 7 decision by the Kaysville City Council to rezone the land to better accommodate the firm’s plans, the controversy has taken on a new dimension. Anderson and homeowners have launched a campaign to put a referendum question to voters in their bid to reverse the 3-2 vote. Likewise, their lawyer, Jim Stewart of Smith Hartvigsen in Salt Lake City, hints at other efforts to remove the landscaping firm, a noisy nuisance, the critics contend.

The land has been zoned residential — Jim Puffer, the landscaping firm’s owner, sought a light industrial designation in last week’s vote — and Stewart doesn’t think a storage facility fits in the neighborhood. “We think it’s improper and I’m sure we’ll be having those discussions with the city,” he said Wednesday.

Puffer didn’t immediately respond to queries seeking comment.

Shayne Scott, the Kaysville city manager, said the city needs to get a firmer grasp on the neighbors’ initiative. Homeowners filed an application at city hall on Tuesday to seek a referendum question on the zoning decision, as allowed under state law, but it still faces review from city officials.

“While we defend the right of our elected city council to make legislative decisions for our city, we will also support any legal right of our citizens to protest said decisions,” Scott said in an email Wednesday. City leaders, he continued, “will follow state and local codes and the outlined process in determining next steps and what role the city should play in the process.”

‘A hard-fought issue’

Jim Puffer Landscape acquired the land, located near other homes and across Burton Lane from a storage facility, from the Old Mill Village Homeowners Association. It had sat vacant and unused, meant to be an open common area within the homeowners group, but Puffer started using it to store boulders and other landscaping materials.

When Puffer’s request to rezone the land from R-1-20, a single family residential designation, to light industrial came to light last spring, neighbors started mobilizing against the plans. City leaders maintain that Puffer has leeway to use the land for storage, even under the R-1-20 designation, but the neighbors complained of noise, dust, truck traffic and more.

“It’s kind of a hard-fought issue because this is a very nice neighborhood,” Stewart said. “These are very nice homes.”

Per the Sept. 7 city council decision, Puffer agreed to a series of conditions to address the neighbors’ complaints, like fencing, other buffering and limits on when operations are permissible. But it’s not enough for many. 

“To me, even though that agreement is in place, I don’t think it’s going to be enforceable,” said Nancy Villamizar, who lives south of the Puffer property.

“I can’t point you to one person that wants this. Not one,” said Anderson.

Anderson filed an application for a referendum on Tuesday with the signatures of nine foes of the zoning change, and now city leaders must make sure the paperwork complies with state law. If it does, the contingent seeking to void the Sept. 7 decision would then have around 45 days to get a sufficient number of signatures to force the matter to an election ballot, 12.5 percent of the total number of Kaysville voters in the 2016 presidential vote. That would amount to an estimated 1,860 signatures.

If the process gets that far, the question of whether the Sept. 7 decision should stand would then be put to voters, though Stewart isn’t sure exactly when. Meantime, Stewart maintains that in light of the residents’ efforts, the Puffer zoning change is on hold.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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