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OGDEN — The unincorporated Weber County area west of Plain City, Marriott-Slaterville and West Haven has historically been agricultural, and overseen by the county commissioners.
But as waves of exurban development and growth sweep the area, some believe it’s time to become a city that can take that decision-making power into its own hands. The organizers of this incorporation effort told KSL.com they have selected the name that will appear on the incorporation vote: the new town would be called, appropriately, West Weber.
The West Weber name was chosen among six finalists — including Big Bend, River Bend, Country Heritage, Heritage and Ogden Bay — that locals voted on via email after attending recent meetings about the proposed incorporation.
Valerie Hansen, a longtime West Weber resident and incorporation advocate, said she has found the county commissioners unresponsive to the community’s needs and desires.
“Over the years, I have just noticed that the citizens out there, their voice is not valued by the commissioners, generally,” Hansen said. “It’s such a hard thing to weigh out what the community wants for their future and landowner rights.”
She said the community isn’t against all growth but wants more say in how it happens. Right now, she said, growth and development are occurring in a “haphazard” way.
“I think we need to look at all the documentation and studies, and have some policies and some zoning ordinances in place before we just start building. Because once you do it, you can’t go back.”
On the Visit Ogden website, West Weber is described as a “gateway to the brackish marshes of the Great Salt Lake,” home to migrating waterfowl and excellent duck and goose hunting. Hansen said it’s important to preserve the migratory pathways for the birds and maintain the character of the area.
An incorporation feasibility study completed by Zions Public Finance found that incorporation would require a property tax increase of about $50 per year for a $250,000 home, though Hansen argues that residents would see similar tax increases regardless. The proposed incorporation area totals 103.42 square miles, the study says, but only 56.72 square miles on land.
West Weber would have an estimated population of 4,663, with 82 people per square mile. That density is far below nearby cities like West Haven (1,158) and Plain City (521), and even falls under Hooper’s 93 per square mile.
But the city’s average taxable value per capita, at $152,119, is “higher than all surrounding areas, except West Haven, and provides a strong property tax base for the proposed city,” the study says.
The path to incorporation may be complicated by efforts from Plain City and West Haven to annex portions of the proposed West Weber. Greg Bell, another advocate for West Weber incorporation, said his group is waiting for clarification from the lieutenant governor’s office to make sure that an incorporation vote proceeds fairly.
For example, he said, if some of the proposed West Weber is annexed by another city, Bell wants to make sure that those residents don’t get to vote on West Weber incorporation just because they are within the originally proposed city boundaries. “Our understanding of the law is that there would have to be some sort of boundary protection in order to move forward with a fair election,” he said.
Bell said he anticipates that West Weber will go ahead with an incorporation vote even if some of its proposed territory is annexed by another city.
Now that his group has submitted a petition to the lieutenant governor’s office, he said, the issue of incorporation could potentially appear on West Weber ballots during the June 30, 2020, primary elections, with a functioning city government established by the end of the year.
Like Hansen, Bell said his desire for incorporation came from dissatisfaction with the county commissioners. “I figured local representation is a better way of controlling our tax dollars,” Bell said.
Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins pushed back against the idea that the commission is unresponsive, pointing out that the current commissioners are fairly new on the job. Jenkins is himself a resident and former mayor of a western Weber community, Plain City.
“So we see these people all the time. We live in their community, we drive through their communities,” Jenkins said. “Of course, we don’t promise to make everybody like what we do. But we do promise to call back and give them all input on what we’re doing and what’s happening.”
Jenkins said he personally has always believed that West Weber should be a city and said as much at a recent community meeting. But he isn’t sure how the incorporation vote is going to turn out. “Let me tell you, I don’t have a clue right now,” he said. “It’s up in the air as much as it could be.”
Hansen expressed more confidence in the community’s will to incorporate. But even with the uncertainty injected by annexation efforts, Hansen said she’s pleased the community is getting the attention it needs.
“We just kind of go unnoticed, until lately,” Hansen said. “And now everybody’s fighting over us. So that’s got to be a good thing.”