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Draper Journal

Draper opens up possibility of Deer Ridge development with surplus compromise

Jul 25, 2018 11:49AM ● By Justin Adams

A view of Deer Ridge Drive. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

The Draper City Council chambers were unusually packed during their July 10 meeting as dozens of Draper residents turned out to voice their opposition to the idea of selling over 200 acres of land to developers. 

The question being discussed during the meeting was whether the large section of land owned by the city should be declared “surplus,” which would open up the possibility of the city receiving offers to buy the property, located near the Deer Ridge community.

Currently, the land is completely undeveloped, aside from trails which are used for biking, dog-walking and early-morning runs by the nearby Deer Ridge and Suncrest communities. 

By the end of the night, over 20 Draper residents had spoken against the idea of selling the land to developers. Many said the property should be protected and preserved through a conservation easement. 

A conservation easement, according to City Manager David Dobbins, is an agreement wherein the city owns a piece of land, but cedes control of it to a third party. In this case, Salt Lake County. Much of the undeveloped land on the mountain ridge has already been placed under such an easement. 

“If we want to build a bathroom at a trailhead, we have to go to the county,” explained Dobbins. “The reason we do that is so a future city council can’t turn around and decide to sell it off.” 

One of the residents who spoke in favor of conserving the property explained that he runs on the trails every morning before sunrise and has seen many animal species including porcupines, moose, elk and even a mountain lion. “On behalf of the animals and me, I’d ask you to consider preserving it,” he told the city council. 

The prospect of eventually selling parts of the property has been on the table ever since the city acquired it, according to Dobbins. “The city council had discussed the possibility of selling off some of the property in order to try to generate some funds to pay off the acquisition costs and fix some of the roads up there,” he said. 

One road in particular, Deer Ridge Drive, was cited by numerous city council members and residents as being in desperate need of repairs. Any sale of the property would be used to fund those repairs. 

 Clinton Fairbanks, a Draper resident, learned about the possibility of the land being surplussed when he was hiking in the area two weeks prior and saw a yellow sign posted by the city. It read, “Notice of public hearing. Proposal for this property: Declare property as surplus and authorize the sale.” 

Fairbanks immediately went to work alerting and organizing the community. Thus the “Protect Deer Ridge” community group was born. The group has a Facebook page, started a petition with over 1,900 signatures and, of course, ensured the high community turnout at the city council meeting. 

Fairbanks told the Draper Journal he has taken time off from his job in order to work on this issue. He even took his Draper Days booth that he had previously purchased in order to promote his photography, and instead used it to promote the efforts of Protect Deer Ridge. 

Heading into the city council meeting, Fairbanks said he had spoken with Councilman Mike Green, who, according to Fairbanks, had agreed to propose a compromise in which only 10 acres would be surplussed. 

“We came to that meeting to sign a peace agreement. Instead, we got shot at,” said Fairbanks.

Instead of the 10-acre compromise, a motion was made by Councilwoman Tasha Lowery to surplus the entire 217 acres, with the following restrictions: 

1.  A majority of the land is to be retained as a city park/city open space, to include hiking trails and a specific area designated as off leash.
2.  Any development must respect the Hillside Sensitive zoning and follow the rules and guidelines inherent to the zone.
3.  Any development must respect the current neighborhood, with a minimum lot size of .5 acres, not to exceed 30 units maximum.
4.  Any sale is at the complete discretion of the council and must have council approval to move forward.

“It was an overwhelming feeling that we went there and wasted our breath,” said Fairbanks. 

However, Lowery told the Draper Journal that resident comments “absolutely” impacted her resolution, which she drafted throughout the meeting as she took the passionate resident comments into consideration. 

“This was always kept out of the easement because it was always meant for development,” said Lowery, who noted that the original intention for the property was to have 200 houses built there. The maximum of 30 homes allowed in her resolution is a good compromise, she said. 

“I ran on being a problem solver and so I look for compromises where I can. I made a promise that I would protect open space but I also promised that I would look out for our infrastructure needs.” 

Lowery noted there’s a strong possibility that no development will even happen.

“To be honest, no one will probably want to develop it. With the restrictions that I put on it, it will be very hard to develop on it and turn a profit,” she said. 

And even if a developer makes an offer, the city does not have to sell.

“There’s no requirement to sell it. We don’t have to accept any offers,” said Dobbins.

The purpose of surplussing the entire property, according to Lowery, is that it allows the city to conduct engineering studies of the land to determine what parts of it are even viable for development. 

Since the July 10 city council meeting, Lowery said she has heard from several residents who said they thought it was a good compromise. 

“A lot of people I think have always known that part of this land would eventually be developed. They just hoped it wouldn't be 200 homes. And now it’s not going to be. They’re going to keep their dog park. They’re going to keep their trails. And now they’ll get a new road.”