The City Council delayed their decision on the nine-lot subdivision overlooking Family Park (formerly Peck Park) during Tuesday’s meeting. The controversial project received a unanimous negative recommendation from the Planning Commission last month and is expected to move forward with Council approval despite the delay.
“This has become a very difficult subject but there are a lot of moving parts incorporated in this,” said Mayor Mark Johnson to kick off the agenda item. Johnson then asked City Attorney Ryan Wood to respond to comments made by Planning Commission members during a previous meeting, when they questioned if the City was even permitted to buy and sell residential lots.
“Who represents the applicant and who represents the City?”asked Commissioner Scott Carlson when the Family Park Estates request was presented at last month’s Commission meeting. “Because you’re approving the variance to your own application and it’s bothering me. The City is the applicant, and the City receives the revenue. Financially it seems like a potential conflict,” added Carlson.
Wood reviewed the state code during the Council meeting which states “Cities may purchase, receive, hold, sell, lease, convey and dispose of real property for the benefit of a municipality.”
“We’re not in the development business per se as far as residential or commercial development, however, we do facilitate the selling of property at times. We participated in both the purchase and looking to participate in the sale of this property,” added Johnson in defense of the City’s actions.
The City purchased a 17-acre lot ($1.4 million) adjoined to the park which was approved for a 20-home subdivision. The Council saw it as an opportunity to add acreage to Family Park while reducing density by taking 20 homes out of the area.
The purchase, which was previously turned down twice, wasn’t in the budget and had to be paid for with park impact fees previously allocated to other projects. The City needs to recoup the $1.4 million purchase price and decided to subdivide and sell the 3-acre property in question. The City rezoned the property to residential in June 2021.
“At the end of the day, my concern is, we didn’t have it in the budget to buy these 20 lots. We have to reimburse that budget, period. I’m telling you; we don’t have gobs of money. We have to maintain a surplus fund for emergencies. I don’t get a vote on this, but my job is to protect the budget of Lehi City.” said Johnson.
“Not one of the emails sent to me suggested what we can do to make up the money and expense for this land. I’m open to any option that anybody has to offer. I just want to pay for the land. I’m willing to entertain any sort of compromise.”continued Johnson.
Before opening the agenda item up to public comment. Johnson also stated that the previously requested parking strip variance the City was seeking was no longer being requested and the City would be following all applicable building requirements on these lots. The parking strip variance on the parcel was originally requested by the City and became a hot button discussion item during the Planning Commission meeting.
“We have a responsibility to all of Lehi to both spend budget dollars judiciously but also to preserve anything that is of value to the community. I’m encouraged that there is an opportunity to preserve the views for everyone while also helping to fund the park for the enjoyment of all Lehi residents,” said Councilwoman Paige Albrecht in her opening comments, referencing the overlook/view feature being proposed in the Family Park plans.
“If there are frustrations, please come with solutions or try to help us. This hasn’t been an easy decision to make, and it won’t be an easy decision to make,” said Councilwoman Katie Koivisto just before public comment was to open.
Residents from around the area spoke during public comments opposing the project. Resident concerns were mostly centralized around traffic concerns and losing their long-time views. Others suggested seeking corporate sponsorships to pay for the land purchase payback.
Councilman Paul Hancock said the City has worked tirelessly to get corporate sponsorships and it hasn’t worked out. Hancock also shared the example of nearby Adobe, with revenues exceeding $15 billion, which give $10,000 annually to the Traverse Mountain Trails Association. A welcomed and appreciated amount but not the substantial chunk residents usually anticipate expressed Hancock.
“I understand you want some solutions to take care of this. I have no idea. We need to think about it. It takes time. What’s the rush? Can we slow down a little bit? I think it may be too hasty,” said resident Gina Christofferson, who along with several others urged the Council to delay their decision.
“I actually like this. I’m willing to take a [couple] months to look at it and see what we can do differently is where I’m at,”said Councilman Mike Southwick after public comment concluded.
The Council agreed to table the agenda item until a later meeting, citing the desire to offer residents an opportunity to bring alternative ideas. The delay will also give enough time for a geotechnical report to verify that the lots are acceptable to build on.
The vote to table passed 4-1, with Councilman Chris Condie dissenting.
“I don’t think I can support tabling this. It has been on our minds for quite a while. I think we’ve gone through it. I know there’s always a debate on whether people have been notified or not, but we’ve been through this. I just don’t see what will change [by waiting]. I think we should just move forward.”