Orem building moratorium amended after City Council inundated with emails and calls | News, Sports, Jobs

This undated panorama photo shot by a drone shows the city of Orem. (Courtesy Orem City)

After being inundated with emails and calls from disgruntled business owners and individuals, the Orem City Council voted to amend a building moratorium that was put in place just two weeks prior.

On Aug. 8, the Orem City Council called a special meeting to address implementing a moratorium lasting up to six months on new applications for building so the council along with city leaders and stakeholders could assess the State Street Master Plan that was approved in 2019.

The intent was to see if the plan needs tweaking or adjustments, particularly when it comes to multi-family unit housing.

The special meeting was requested by a number of residents who have been involved with the 1600 North buildout of a mixed-use multifamily dwelling project after they expressed concerns about issues including height, parking, traffic and setbacks. Supporting them were members of the Southwest Orem Neighborhood Association.

The intent was to examine areas or districts along the State Street Master Plan that included apartments and if they should be reconsidered.

The council voted 4-3 in favor of the moratorium that could last until February 2022. One of the council who voted in favor of the moratorium was Tom Macdonald.

Macdonald said he voted in favor of the moratorium because he felt it was ok to step back and take another look. He compared this to issues surrounding the Green on Campus Drive, a large apartment complex bordering Utah Valley University.

The Green development brought out a host of naysayers and eventually led to a city vote.

“There was no compelling reason to act now,” Macdonald said. “I didn’t see that need like I did the Green development.”

At the Aug. 8 meeting, one development was singled out as a problem. Wright Development who owns property on State Street in the Arts District of the master plan.

The development company was submitting application for building a mix-use development, they had ticked all the required boxes but one, a meeting with residents, and the application would be complete. The meeting was already set for Wednesday Aug. 10.

The moratorium appears to have stopped that development, which is what residents were seeking.

Wright Development, which owns the property that formerly housed the Meadow Gold ice cream plant at about 900 South and State Street in Orem, has requested an opinion from the state property rights ombudsman about the building moratorium that could delay construction for more than six months.

The city planners and others are concerned the company could sue the city for the moratorium, a delay that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to city planners.

Wright was to build a mixed-use multifamily unit dwelling, about five stories tall, with the ground floor housing retail businesses.

Orem has retained outside counsel in the event Wright were to sue the city. According to Stephen Earl, the city attorney, the question is if the applicant was vested before the moratorium.

The moratorium, however, covered more than just building apartments along State Street. It also included all building, remodeling, signage changes and more. The Community Development office had to call all of those who were starting the process and tell them they had to wait.

It appears the council in voting for the moratorium did not understand it would go to that extreme and it was not their intent to stop all building. A number of new companies coming into Orem were affected by the decision, according to Jason Bench, city planner.

On Aug. 24 the council amended the moratorium order to only apartment developments so that others could continue with their applications and projects.

“We think we’ve fixed it with the amendment,” Macdonald said.

The city is still waiting to hear back from Wright Development and the State Ombudsman.


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