Boulder Residents Hoping to Keep Small Town Small

Boulder Residents Hoping to Keep Small Town Small

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BOULDER, Utah (AP) -- Residents want to keep this small town small.

Many Boulder residents are opposed to the School and Institutional Trust Land Administration (SITLA) selling or leasing 480 acres for potential development of pinyon and sage that overlook the town from a mesa.

Tucked between 10,000-foot Boulder Mountain and the sandstone desert of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Boulder for decades was a traditional Mormon farm town at the end of a 100-mile dead-end road.

Most of the 180 residents want to keep the small town traditions, but the town has been evolving since the mid-1980s, when crews paved state Route 12 over Boulder Mountain to Torrey in neighboring Wayne County.

"Oh, it's changed," Town Council member Gladys LeFevre told The Salt Lake Tribune for a story Sunday. "I don't even know everybody in town any more."

LeFevre was born here and lives on land homesteaded by her great-grandfather in 1889. She is among residents who are afraid a huge lodge or neighborhood of trophy homes would alter the ridgeline's natural beauty.

Residents stood together at a recent town meeting as they stood up to SITLA officials, who want the Town Council to approve a road to the state's mesa-top ground.

"An easement would increase the value of the property," SITLA spokesman Dave Herbertson said.

By statute, SITLA must maximize trust-land profits. But Boulder residents want to maximize beauty by denying the easement and keeping the land untouched.

"It's not like we think conservation is a bad idea," Herbertson said, "but we can't give land away. It's against the law."

Boulder residents are curious that other school-trust sections in the area were traded into the Grand Staircase-Escalante, when then-President Clinton designated the monument in 1996. This section was omitted, leaving it for potential development.

"People sensed there was some kind of a backroom deal," said Mark Austin, former proprietor of the Boulder Mountain Lodge. "It turned into an emotional argument, and no one spoke in favor of it."

Residents are wary of SITLA's explanation about how the state kept the land and what it plans to do with it, says Mike Nelson, director of the state's Anasazi park in Boulder.

"People see through that. They know (SITLA) doesn't care about us. We shouldn't be too cynical about change, but the town doesn't want development up there," Nelson said.

SITLA's parcel is within the town limits and is bounded by Forest Service land and the monument. It's a sensitive area, explains Town Councilman Bill Muse, a transplanted Heber Valley horse rancher.

"We fear development that could get around the town's land-use plan that restricts ridgeline building and light pollution," he said. "We would like the opportunity to bid on (the SITLA land) and put it into a conservation easement."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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