A divided Grantsville City Council voted to postpone selling burial plots behind the Clark Historic Farm while it negotiates the sale of the property to a non-profit during its meeting Wednesday night.
The council vote to begin selling plots failed 2 to 3, with councilmen Scott Stice, Neil Critchlow and Mike Colson voting against the proposal. Stice and Critchlow were both out of town but observed the meeting and voted through a video messaging app.
It marked the latest chapter in a back-and-forth relationship between the city and the non-profit Friends of the Clark Farm, which intends to purchase the property. Brad Hurst, who spoke on the group’s behalf during the public comment portion of the meeting, said they needed more time to find a middle ground with the city.
The Friends of the Clark Farm offered to donate and lay at least 4,000 square feet of sod at an alternate location, designated for expansion, which is adjacent to the current cemetery. The sod would help prepare 80 new plots for sale.
“We have around two years of donated sod at this point and we’re willing to lay that out just as soon as we can,” Hurst said.
The city spent about $30,000 in sprinkler systems and other improvements for the field directly behind the buildings at the farm, after the council voted to use the field for a cemetery back in 2010. After a petition with hundreds of signatures was presented to the city council, they passed a moratorium on burial plot sales last September.
The city council ended the moratorium two months later with the stipulation the city would have to vote to approve any burial plot sales in the future.
The Friends of the Clark Farm presented a plan to purchase the farm’s buildings and an additional 20 acres of fields at the March 4 city council meeting, for a total of 23 acres. During his presentation at that meeting, Hurst said private donors and government funds were more likely to support the farm if it had additional acreage.
At Wednesday’s meeting, details about the city’s offer to the non-profit were made available to the public. The city offered to sell 12.5 acres to the group at $37,000 an acre, with $67,000 to recoup development costs and $225,000 for the home on the property.
That home is used by a pre-school and the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. With acreage and the home, the total asking price is $754,500.
The offer, originally made on March 12, required a down payment of $75,000 within 15 days. The remaining $679,500 would be due within 45 days, according to the city’s offer.
In correspondence between the city and the non-profit, Mayor Brent Marshall indicated the city would extend the deadline for the $75,000 in earnest money until April 30. At that time, all offers from the city would be withdrawn, Marshall said in the letter.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Stice agreed with Hurst that there was no need to rush the sale of burial plots behind the Clark Farm with a lot adjacent to the cemetery available for expansion.
Councilman Tom Tripp, who voted in favor of selling burial plots behind the farm, said the city already made proposals and he didn’t want to delay the sale without a definitive offer from the Friends of the Clark Farm.
“I think it would be counterproductive for this council to just sit down and start talking after we’ve made concrete proposals in the past,” he said.
Colson said he thought selling the farmstead was the best option for the city, which is one reason he voted against the sale of burial plots at the meeting.
“The best interest for the Clark Farm is for Grantsville City to sell it,” he said. “We don’t want to be in the historic business and they can handle that.”
Tripp said he had no interest in selling all of the property associated with the Clark Farm, which the city bought for $335,000 back in 2009. He said the council looked weak by going back and forth on decisions for the Clark Farm’s future.
“In the discussions I’ve had, I’m concerned there’s no compromise on the other side,” he said.
Councilman Mike Johnson said that he’s frustrated about backlash on social media and other outlets from decisions related to the historic farm.
“We get beat up left and right all the time and … I’m sick of it,” he said. “I was out turkey hunting and got calls starting at 7 o’clock this morning telling me what had been said on Facebook.”
During the public comment period, Hurst reminded the few dozen supporters of the Friends of the Clark Farm in attendance that the council was working for the best solution for the city.
“I would suggest that, as we cross this finish line together as a group, that we do so in a very kind manner and do so in a way that we would all be proud of,” he said.
Following the vote against the sale of burial plots, Colson motioned the council meet with representatives of the non-profit in two weeks. The Friends of the Clark Farm would supply a written proposal on the property and after the meeting, if no resolution is reached, the council would revisit selling burial plots behind the farm.
The motion to extend the discussion on the farm’s future passed by a 3 to 2 vote, with Johnson and Tripp in opposition.
Laurie Hurst, who founded the Friends of the Clark Farm, said communication has been the major sticking point in negotiations with the city over the sale of the property.
“We’ve been asking for a meeting with them, face-to-face, for two years now,” she said. “It’s going to be very helpful to sit together and talk about different points.”