Neighbors claim rampant illegal activity at Lehi Farmers Market, Utah County Officials respond
“Please help us” has been the plea from neighbors of Lehi’s unofficial Farmers Market off Center Street over the last few months. In a complaint letter sent to Utah County and Lehi City, neighbors claim the 4-acre property is being used for illegal camping, an RV park, public urination, trash dumping, a fire hazard, trespassing, blocking roads and hosting unpermitted events, including offering commercial helicopter rides. The property is not officially in Lehi City but in unincorporated Utah County.
“The owner of the property, Dorothy Durrant, is completely unwilling to clean up her property and comply with county ordinances. She believes she can do whatever she wants with her property, regardless of how it affects the safety and wellness of her community. She has ignored multiple compliance notices from the county and continues to commit illegal activity with no plans to correct her actions,” said a group of residents in a letter sent to Utah County.
“As of March 2023, the property brought 23+ trailer RVs onto the property and is renting them out for individuals to live in for the price of $500-600 dollars per month as seen on their Facebook advertisements,” The complaint continued.
On April 5th, the property had 20 RVs, two tents and a teepee visible from the adjacent street.
“The smell is unbearable, and things are visually broken and unclean… trash, debris and garbage has been out of control on the property for years, it is now piling up around the exterior of all the RVs… people have been seen peeing along the back of the property multiple times too,” said the complaint letter.
The Farmers Market spokesperson refutes the neighborhood coalition complaint, “As of now, not one neighbor has talked [complained] to us at all. No neighbors have stopped, called or messaged about anything [related to RVs or trash and debris], said Lehi Farmers Market representative Lucy Smith.
The property is zoned RA-5 (Residential Agriculture) and is in Utah County. It has not been annexed into Lehi City.
According to Utah County Code, “Farmers Markets” is a permitted use with the following conditions:
Upon receipt of a complete application, the Zoning Administrator shall grant a permit for a produce stand or farmers’ market if the Zoning Administrator finds that all of the following conditions and requirements are met:
• Only plants, animals or parts thereof which are products of the subject lot or farm unit shall be offered for sale at a produce stand; farmers’ markets may sell plants, animals or parts thereof from any lot or parcel or farm unit produced within the boundaries of Utah.
• At least five (5) off-street parking spaces shall be provided for a produce stand; five (5) off-street parking spaces per 1000 square feet of retail floor area shall be provided for a farmers’ market, but never less than five (5) off-street parking spaces.
According to the Utah County Community Development Department, the Lehi Farmers Market property has not applied for a permit and has been notified of the requirement to do so.
A helicopter pad and flying field is also a conditional use for the RA-5 zone, but the property owner has not applied for or been granted a permit for that use either.
The more significant issue for the County is the number of RVs rented and inhabited on the property.
“We allow property owners to store their own personal RV on their property, if there is a legal dwelling on the property and the RV has a current license and registration. RV Storage for RVs not owned by the property owner is not a permitted use in the RA-5 zone. The property owner has been informed the storage of RVs is not an allowed use and told the RVs must be removed immediately,” Said Utah County Community Development representative Greg Robinson.
The neighbors adjacent to the market have been engaged in discussion with County officials for several months, including Utah County Commissioner Amelia P. Gardner and the office of Commissioner Tom Sakievich.
“After I spoke with some of the residents by phone and heard the many concerns, I considered it a top priority to meet with the neighbors and see the site firsthand. Commissioner Sakievich and I immediately began working with various departments here at Utah County Government to resolve the residents’ land use concerns and preserve the integrity of and safety of their neighborhood. It’s an ongoing situation,” said Lisa Shepherd, Senior Policy Advisor for Commissioner Sakievich.
“We have been working on this for several months now. We, as a commission, have referred this property to the County Attorney’s office for criminal review after noncompliance with too many civil requests. The Utah County Sheriff’s Office has also been in coordination with the Attorney’s office to remedy this situation. This is a big deal for the health, safety and welfare of the community,” said Commissioner Gardner when reached for comment Wednesday.
Lucy Smith said the RVs on site are used by helpers staying on the property to care for crop harvests and to build a future barn and horse stables.
Smith acknowledged that Durrant, the property owner, did meet with the Utah County Attorney’s office last week and was told the RVs must be removed within 45 days.
“They already started moving [out],” answered Smith when asked if they plan to comply with the order.
In response to questions about the need for a county permit to operate the market and the helicopter tours, Smith said they feel they are complying as they have a food compliance business license from the Utah State Department of Agriculture and have had numerous passing-grade health department visits.
“Yes, we do helicopter tours. We hired a third-party service, and they have a permit. It’s also on private property where we have the flights. We don’t use neighbor’s property without permission,” said Smith.
“We really do try our very best to support this community and welcome everyone here. All the small businesses here love the visitors and are thankful for this market,” added Smith.
“We know that there has been continued neighbor gossip and online attacks. They drive by and stop out front of our property and take photos, as well as come over to the property to visit and then complain that our working farm has manure. We have livestock. That’s expected. We’re concerned about our safety from neighbors being this way. We feel we need 24-hour security as some neighbors make us feel as if they have a say over our private residence, and this property is privately owned,” concluded Smith.
Lehi City, which does not have jurisdiction over the property, didn’t respond to comment as of Wednesday night, but City officials have acknowledged issues with the Farmers Market.