Decades ago, the families living along 4750 North, which was then part of the county, were approached with an urgent request by Provo City to sign an annexation agreement. Since “leapfrog” annexation was not allowed, their cooperation was needed so that Provo could annex the area north of 4800 North before Orem did. The Shops at Riverwoods now sit on this area but it would likely have otherwise become a part of Orem. In return for the cooperation of these families in signing the annexation agreement, Provo officials made the following commitments:
- Existing business uses would be grandfathered (only one remains)
- They would retain animal rights (which is no longer important to them)
- They would not have to hook up to the city sewer system
- The land just north of them would remain low density
In 2008, after much discussion and with strong neighborhood support, a PRO-22 zone was created to allow a condominium project at about 7.25 units per acre on the 9 acres just south of Riverwoods, down to and including the north side of 4750 North. Due to the recession, the developer never proceeded with the project.
In recent years, the Riverwoods owner has purchased the 9 acres comprising the PRO-22 zone. One of their goals has been to purchase the Wynnsong movie theater so that they could upgrade it. The California investor who owns it was not willing to sell it but was willing to trade it in a land swap deal that would give him ownership of the 9 acres in question if an apartment complex of sufficient density could be built there by PEG Development.
To facilitate the above deal, PEG has requested a zone change that would allow apartments in the PRO-22 zone, would increase the allowed density in the zone, and would increase the allowed height. The first version of the proposal requested density over 5 times what is currently allowed and a height increase that would allow a 5 story building. In response to concerns from area residents, PEG has offered multiple iterations of the proposal in an attempt to address those concerns.
The most recent version of PEG’s proposal, unveiled for the Planning Commission meeting last Wednesday and dubbed option B, combines elements of several of their previous proposals. This version was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission on a 5-0 vote. It calls for eight single family homes along the north side of 4750 North with a fence separating them from the proposed apartment complex to the north. I favor removing this part of the project from the PRO-22 zone and rezoning it R1.8 single family to reflect its true character.
The prior proposal, dubbed option A at the Planning Commission, had offered six 4-plex townhome apartments (see above rendering) on the north side of 4750 instead of the single family homes. This proposal option was strongly opposed by all residents on 4750 and by many others in the area who sympathized with them.
An even earlier proposal that included the single family homes on the north side of 4750 had 254 apartment units in a configuration that included a fourth story on one of the three buildings. The inclusion of the fourth story and the “blocky” appearance of the building had been of concern to many residents in the area. The latest option B proposal limits all the buildings to three stories, limits the apartment unit count to about 230, and softens the massing.
Though many residents still question the density of the apartments and how it will affect the character and the look and feel of the Riverbottoms area, this latest option B proposal has more support than any prior proposal due to its combination of lowering maximum height, reducing density slightly, softening the appearance, and including single family homes on the north side of 4750.
The project would bring significant economic benefits for both the Riverwoods and for nearby office complexes. The land swap deal leading to a Wynnsong movie theater upgrade is not guaranteed to happen. But given the substantial effort Riverwoods is making in that regard, we can assume that it would be a likely outcome and that a successful movie theater upgrade would boost their efforts to attract customers.