Open-Space Bond is Not Enough to Buy Entire Canyon

Open-Space Bond is Not Enough to Buy Entire Canyon

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A $7 million open-space bond passed by Draper voters is not enough to buy as much land as residents had expected, and some feel proponents were not honest with them.

City leaders say there was no promise that the bond could buy the entire canyon -- 1,035 acres -- between the Wasatch Range and Traverse Ridge at the south end of Salt Lake Valley.

"My understanding was that the city had negotiated with landowners and it was just a matter of them handing the money over and they became owners of the land," resident Gordon Banks said.

An appraisal done after the November bond election showed the price of the entire property was out of the city's reach. Now, city officials are negotiating with Corner Canyon landowners, a conglomeration of several irrigation companies and Riverton, to see how much land the city can afford.

Resident Summer Pugh said many residents only voted to increase their property taxes for the bond because they thought the entire canyon would be safe from development.

Much of the land is not developable due to slopes exceeding 30 percent grade, and Pugh said the property owners may be overcharging the city for land they could not use anyway.

Hollis Hunt, attorney for the Corner Canyon Property Owners, said the $7 million likely will buy about 700 acres in the lower Corner Canyon region, but landowners want to develop acreage on the upper portion.

To do that, the city likely would have to change zoning on the land from an existing agricultural zone to denser residential.

A misperception may have stemmed from several local groups campaigning for the bond this fall, city manager Eric Keck said.

He said many residents were falsely given the impression that the city could swoop in and save all of Corner Canyon.

But, Keck added, the city never took a position on the bond and never anticipated being able to buy the entire region.

"Obviously the city would love to have all 1,035 acres," he said. "But it's a goal; it was never a promise."

Resident Jeff Hodges said the city could have better achieved that goal by setting some ground rules with landowners before putting the bond on the ballot. With no appraisal before voters approved the $7 million, the city set itself up to get taken advantage of by property owners, Hodges said.

"I'm all for open space, but what I think we've got now is a situation where landowners want every penny of the $7 million despite the fact that it's not worth that," he said.

Hunt said the landowners actually thought the appraised value of the land was too low, but were willing to accept the figure to accommodate the city.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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