Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 2, 2016
Grantsville council ignored city’s CUP rules

At their Jan. 20 meeting, the new Grantsville City Council had the opportunity to make the decision their own — to act on campaign promises of stewardship for our historic places, or to follow the status quo of the former council.

An appeal was before them that contested not the location of the alfalfa field behind the Clark Farm, but that the Conditional Use Permit application was submitted without a basic site plan as required by the Grantsville Land Use and Management Code. Site plans are required of others who apply for a CUP.

Without such a plan, how could the city determine the cost of the project and justify the best use of city resources? They could not, as new councilwoman Jewel Allen cited. Councilman Neil Critchlow felt it was unfair for the city to skip through basic requirements the city holds to others. What about needing a drainage plan for the parking lot and restrooms that had previously been discussed by the council? It doesn’t need a drainage study, it’s a field, said city attorney Joel Linares. Besides, Mayor Brent Marshall stated, they have now decided to move the restrooms to the north near the new concessions stand and the swimming pool. With a ballpark estimate, it will be about the same cost as any cemetery, and cemeteries tend to pay for themselves, postured councilman Tom Tripp.

Without a concrete plan or costs, the council could have 1.) dismissed the appeal, 2.) upheld the appeal, eliminating the chance to reapply for two years, or 3.) referred it back to planning and zoning where the city would be required, like anyone else, to submit the proper plans. The vote to dismiss the appeal was 3 to 2, with new councilwoman Krista Sparks siding with councilmen Tripp and Colson, noting the need to move on.

The issue has been prolonged, but a break to ease fatigue would be better than proceeding prematurely without a plan. Altering a national historic site and moving the town’s cemetery deserve patience, open discussion and professional input. With this appeal, we had simply hoped the new city council would step back for a minute and begin a fresh, cooperative exchange of ideas for compatible options, unwelcomed in the past three years, before permanent decisions were made.

In spite of the hundreds of people who have demonstrated their opposition, and the few who have voiced desires to move the cemetery there, the alfalfa field at least deserves a fair look in comparison to other options. What are the costs? How will it affect the historic district?

For example, the CUP for the alfalfa field requires installation of a one-way, paved access road from Clark Street to Wrathall Lane over a third of a mile long, costing at least $200,000 according to a reputable road contractor. What are the long-term costs to maintain that new road? Other cemetery options would require no new access roads at all. Is this expense justifiable, both initially and in the future?

Before moving forward, the city must embrace the Clark Farm’s value as an economic asset and its heritage attraction, similar to the Benson Gristmill, which has become a tourist draw and a point of identity, not only for Stansbury Park, but for the county. As a complement to the gristmill and in its own right, the Clark Farm will add strength to local tourism dollars.

The cemetery’s location on the alfalfa field and overall site plan will unquestionably affect the farm’s costs for fencing, its views, activities, security and, thus, its overall potential for a positive impact. To guarantee the best chance for success, it is critical to have an open exchange of concerns between the city and enthusiastic volunteers. Though the appeal was denied, we continue to invite this essential dialogue.

Grantsville deserves excellence. With a story as inspiring as any town in the Intermountain West, Grantsville could look at Panguitch, Mt. Pleasant, Helper, Spring City, Ephraim, Logan, Park City and others that have proven a focus on history can boost the economy and create a “place” among “Anywhere, USA” towns.

If it turns out the alfalfa field is the best placement of the cemetery and the best use of city resources, so be it. But take the time to make it a methodical, factual decision made for reasons beyond personal preferences, and make sure the plan is compatible with our historic sites.

As Grantsville citizens, we expect city leaders to follow their own rules and show evidence that the decisions they make are well-researched and analyzed. Putting the cart before the horse does not serve the people — or the historic district — well.

Hurst is a Grantsville resident. She is founder and president of the nonprofit group Friends of the Clark Farm.

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