Battle involves development of farmland near Salt Lake City

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Updated 9:02 am PDT, Saturday, September 7, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A land development battle is being waged on open land near the Salt Lake City airport where some farmers and residents want to allow a 1,100-unit housing complex to be built and the land to be annexed to North Salt Lake to improve services.

Opponents say the development would hurt air quality and bird refuges in the area and snarl traffic, the Deseret News reports .

The proposed high-density housing development calls for a mix of apartments, townhouses and houses on about 125 acres of farmland within a 400-acre area that would annexed.

The Salt Lake County Council is expected to discuss the proposed annexation at a Sept. 10 meeting.

The landowners, LaVal and Teresa Drechsel, said they struggled for years with farmland that’s been in the family for five generations but decided it would be best to sell so they can continue farming and ranching on their land in northern Utah.

LaVal Drechsel said he spent four years selecting the right developer who can build homes that would help alleviate the housing shortage in the Salt Lake City metro area.

“I don’t care about money. I just want to continue doing what I’m doing,” Drechsel said. “And I want to leave here with my neighbors not hating me, and I’m trying to figure out what would be the best for them.”

Farmer Heather Limon supports the plan because it would bring better sewer and water services to the area, allowing her family to expand a corn maze festival they hold each year to supplement their income.

She said the development would let her and her sibling keep the farm they run financially feasible for future generations. The farm called Cross E Ranch has been in the family since the 1940s.

“We want to be able to control our land,” Limon said. “We feel like we’ve worked hard enough and long enough to decide what we want to do with it.”

Claire Gillmor, who owns land nearby, said she and her neighbors don’t want a housing development in the area. She said everyone who supports the plan would profit in some way.

“There’s nothing prettier than getting to the bank and cashing those checks — but there are people that it’s going to cost,” she said. “It’s going to cost us big time. And we believe it’s going to cost the county as well.”

Gillmor said more housing would hurt air quality and bird refuges and wildlife in the area. She hopes the county council takes more time to consider the proposal.

“You don’t see the eagle nests. You don’t see the bird refuge. The proximity to Farmington Bay,” Gillmor said. “It’s a piece you have protected for us for years. And we need that protection again because cities develop. It’s what they do.”

Developer Dave Tolman of Xcel Development said the project would balance the need for high-density housing while preserving space for parks and trails.

“We cannot afford to pass over areas that have been passed by because of difficulty of development,” Tolman said.