As the election nears, Providence voters are deliberating whether to allow the next phase of Vineyard, a mixed-density housing development that’s already been approved but tied up in the referendum process for two years.
“The design of the community is meant to build as many homes as possible and keep the price of those homes as low as possible too,” said Jon Williams, director of communications & community outreach for Visionary Homes.
Among the development’s opponents, Facebook user Michael Gebhard expressed his disappointment that only Providence residents could decide the outcome of the referendum, since the “residents in River Heights, South Logan and Millville will all be directly impacted by it’s vote, as well as the entire County on a less direct scale.” Many of the replies were against the development being built in the northern side.
“River Heights which can’t even weigh in on the outcome will bear a large portion of the additional traffic created by the development,” Mark Malmstrom stated. “When it was first proposed about four years ago River Heights was amenable to single family traditional and wasn’t likely to give in to the demands/designs of the developer so they went to Providence who let the developer design that portion of the city rather than having the city and its citizens contribute to the design and function of the city.”
Logan resident Joshua Michael Molitor replied to the post stating “Visionary homes is on to cannibalizing on the communities around their developments” and “they do not care how they do it as long as it max profits.”
“There are better ways to build and do it responsibly, but they do not care,” he stated. “Because when the valley becomes to crowded, they can afford to move, having used the people and left the communities much less than before.”
Only Providence residents will be eligible to vote for or against Proposition 1, which could undo the City Council’s decision to annex the site of the next phase of the Vineyard development, but it’s drawn interest from residents across the valley.
Although it’s a referendum on the City Council’s decision, Proposition 1 is worded so that voting “no” will revert the annexation process back to unincorporated county land. Voting “yes” will uphold the decision, allowing developers to finish Vineyard.
Visionary Homes purchased land for Vineyard and has mostly completed construction for the southern phase. In 2019, Visionary Homes requested annexation of two parcels of unincorporated county land into Providence. The council approved the annexation in Ordinance 2019-004, zoning the parcels as Life Cycle Residential, which is a mixed-density land use zone. In the county, the land was zoned for agricultural use.
A few days after the annexation, a citizen’s initiative was submitted, halting construction. According to Williams, the referendum was not placed on 2019’s ballot because it was too late in the year and was not placed on the 2020 ballot because of the federal election.
There has been some confusion regarding the proposition’s wording. Williams explained the frustration Visionary Homes has faced trying to explain Proposition 1 to those against it.
“We have a legitimate affordability crisis throughout Utah, especially in Cache Valley. We’ve been accused of trying to line our pockets, which is absolutely not true,” he said. “We truly believe the community has a great design; it adds the lifestyle residence but balances providing housing that people can purchase.”
Williams added that Visionary Homes can go through the annexation process again if the public were to vote against the proposition. He said that there are many against Proposition 1 who believe if the proposition fails, only single-family homes will be built, which is not true.
“It is an option but not an only option,” he said. “We still would pursue any possibility of building the community as the layout is.”
Skarlet Bankhead is the current community development director of Providence. At the time the original ordinance passed in 2019, Bankhead was the city recorder. She felt that people submitted a citizen’s initiative because they “didn’t like the idea of a development with high density.”
“The way state code works is if people disagree with an ordinance, they don’t necessarily have to wait until election time to elect new council members,” she said, “they can challenge the ordinance, and in this case that’s what they did. They challenged the ordinance, feeling like that wasn’t a good thing for the city.”
The development can currently have anywhere from 4 to 12 units per acre.
Not all residents are against the development. Facebook user Christian Saunders stated: “Ultimately Cache Valley needs to come to terms with the fact that high density housing is coming. It’s needed. Growth is hard. Change is hard. But it’s unavoidable.”
The Herald Journal has also received letters to the editors both for and against Proposition 1. Williams sent in a letter shortly after billboards in support of the development were vandalized back in early October. The billboard was torn in a way that exposed the Visionary Homes billboard underneath.
“It is sad that the Opponents of Proposition 1, and their disingenuous propaganda have been the catalyst for this type of violence,” Williams wrote. “We know that not all Providence residents feel the way Opponents of Proposition 1 do. We ask all law-abiding citizens to ban together and engage in civil, non-violent, non-threatening discourse.”
Williams wrote in an email to The Herald Journal that the development’s opponents have distributed fliers with false claims about Vineyard, have stolen yard signs and failed to sign their materials as a political issues committee.
In addition to working for Visionary Homes, Williams also runs the Complete Vineyard for Providence PIC, Citizens For Prop 1 Facebook group, and his phone number is listed as the contact for forprop1.com.
Proposition 1 will be on the Providence general election ballot on Nov. 2.