Riverton • A bucolic, placid neighborhood in Riverton is changing, and there may not be much the residents can do except hope for a compromise to hang on to a shred of the life they know.
All 60 residents of Riverton's Reeves Lane filed a petition against the installation of a throughway that would connect their street to a housing development an along the Jordan River in eastern South Jordan. They say it would increase dangerous traffic through their neighborhood, fleece new homeowners into purchasing bum property, and water down the rural, low-density flavor of the neighborhood.
The new Ivory Homes development, headed by Dan McKeon and owned by Peter Coates, would add around 50 higher-density units along the river.
Cameron Francis, one of the originators of the petition, has lived on Reeves Lane for 16 years.
"We're trying to maintain the character of our neighborhood and keep people from making a mistake they don't know about," he said.
Flood plain • In the past, residents felt they were not adequately warned of the issues riverfront properties face when Utah Lake opens its floodgates.
"It's such a horrible place to build property," Francis said. "We have an altruistic concern that we don't want other people getting hurt with flooded basements."
Few have been immune. Marci Seegmiller, who built her Reeves Lane home in 1998, is all too familiar with the structural issues resulting from proximity to the river.
"Atlas Piers drove 29 steel piers into our foundation," Seegmiller said. "When you're building a home here, it's like playing a game of Russian roulette. For them to say 'buyer beware' seems so unethical."
South Jordan residents closer to the river and next to the Coates property are appalled South Jordan would grant building rights.
Andy Meisenbacher, of South Jordan's River Front Parkway, spends up to $500 a month on the electricity his 24-hour pumps require during the flooding season.
"People don't know what they're getting into when they buy a house down here," Meisenbacher said. "If I would have known, I would be pumping 450 gallons of water a minute, I would have built my house differently."
The developers, however, say the South Jordan property will take all necessary steps to prevent water damage and inform buyers of the potential risks.
"All the lots are subject to recommendation of estuaries by professionals and a soil engineer," said Brad Sanderson, the South Jordan city planner in charge of the Coates property. "We want full transparency. 'Caveat emptor' may have been the case with them on Reeves Lane, but it's certainly not the case in this situation."
Traffic • Unless the residents can find an alternative, Reeves Lane's northern stub will be extended to connect to the Interstate 15 corridor. The petitioners fear upward of 1,100 cars a day cutting through the neighborhood on the way to the freeway.
"We didn't expect that this street would connect into 11400 South and into the freeway," said Francis. "Our kids play out here. One hundred percent of Reeves Lane has signed to keep that traffic closed. We think they should respect that."
Sanderson said the traffic will minimally increase and has been too long in coming. Any street of Reeves Lane's length must have two exits, according to fire code.
"They've gotten used to their traffic flow because they've been 16 years overdue for a through street," Sanderson said. "They would just see a reverse in traffic. The street was built to handle it."
The largest portion of the petition asks for alternatives to a public street. Francis said Ivory Homes expressed interest in an emergency-only entrance, but that would shift the problem to the South Jordan neighbors.
"We don't want that Reeves Lane entrance closed off," Meisenbacher said. "Then we would have all the new traffic. My kids play out here, too."
Growing pains • There are other concerns. Residents fear the destruction of the wildland and wildlife, higher-density homes lowering property values and restricted access to Jordan River Parkway. Maintaining the growing area's status quo will not be easy.
South Jordan's population has nearly doubled from 29,000 to 56,000 in the past 10 years, like Riverton's, now at 39,000. Both cities now actively promote higher-density dwellings rather than large, single-family plots. The traditional south valley, low-density planning is at odds with land conservation, growing population and appeal to lower-income residents. A petition to save open space was filed by South Jordan residents in 1998 to little effect.
Francis is most certainly trying to preserve the neighborhood's feel.
"We want to keep the quality we have here, with the wildlife and the easy access to the [Jordan River] Parkway, and the safe, quiet streets. It hasn't been a problem for 16 years, so why the rush to change it now?"
For the neighbors, the issues of flooding, traffic and wildland commercialization are unavoidable. The new subdivision is coming. They are simply trying to find a way to keep their heads above water.
Riverton City Council will convene Tuesday, April 22, at 6 p.m. to discuss the alternatives to a through street linking Reeves Lane with a new subdivision.