Two Utah County Towns Grapple Over Development

Two Utah County Towns Grapple Over Development

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News Specialist John Hollenhorst reporting

Development pressures in farm country have touched off a big feud between two towns -- one very new, one very old.

Why would a tiny town that's not growing suddenly demand a new boundary dramatically expanding by more than 30 square miles?

That's the question that's touched off a feud west of Utah Lake in Utah County.

And perhaps it's a tale of two cultures, or at least two histories.

Town and country; farm and city; old versus new.

In a place as big as Cedar Valley, you'd think there'd be enough elbow room for everyone.

But it looks like sharp elbows are out.

"We want to maintain that rural look with our down-to-earth values," says Jeanine Cook, Cedar Fort Mayor.

"I feel like we're the pioneers moving in and the Indians object to us moving into their valley," says Kelvin Bailey, Eagle Mountain Mayor.

Eagle Mountain sprouted out of sagebrush and farmland six years ago. It's now home to 8,500 people.

"Anticipate it will continue this way. We'll probably be double this size in the next three years," Bailey says.

Cedar Fort has had little development since it was founded in 1852. With a population of 300, it's hardly growing at all.

So which town wants to dramatically expand it's boundaries?

The old one. The little one. Cedar Fort.

"We hope we can do this peacefully," Cook says.

To understand a feud like this, you need to look at maps. Eagle Mountain is already the state's third-largest city in area.

Leaders expect to expand some day.

They even put in water and electricity to a proposed commercial district outside Eagle Mountain's west boundary.

"We're not looking to try to grab the valley. We just want to protect what we've invested into," Bailey says.

But Cedar Fort officials seem to be trying to cut them off at the pass.

They filed a petition to annex 31 square miles, overlapping Eagle Mountain's intended commercial district.

That would put vast amounts of farmland within Cedar Fort's city limits, subject to city planning and zoning.

Yet the mayor says Cedar Fort is not trying to stop development.

"You're never going to stop growth, but we want to manage it efficiently," Cook says.

Eagle Mountain officials say they heard a different story from Cook.

"She eventually said, 'you encroached upon us once when you first incorporated, and we're not going to let you do it again,'" says Chris Hillman, city administrator for Eagle Mountain.

"No, no, we do not want to stop development. That's always a healthy change. Not that we have encouraged development in the past, but development has come to us, and so now we need to pro-actively approach that in a good manner," Cook says.

Eagle Mountain officials claim the annexation petition itself is legally flawed, and a third of the signatures have the last name Cook, the same last name as the mayor.

"That could be a possibility because there's probably quite a few Cooks that own property here," Mayor Cook says.

Eagle Mountain officials claim it is illegal to use annexation to stop development. They plan to fight it out a week from tomorrow before the Utah County Boundary Commission.

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