In the Lehi City Planning Commission Meeting held June 8, 2017, the city council chambers were full as Traverse Mountain residents came to express their views concerning a new development planned by TMTH Developers.
Six weeks previous, during the April 20th meeting, the commissioners unanimously denied approval of the concept plan presented by TMTH Developers. The plan necessitated the removal of grading materials by conveyor belt to Geneva Rock Company located several miles west of the proposed development at approximately Gray Hawk Drive and Ravencrest in Traverse Mountain. The commissioners denied the recommendation based on the findings that the material being exported presented health and safety hazards to the residents in the area. It was also found that the high density being proposed at the top of Fox Canyon presented a problem for emergency vehicular travel to the area, and created hazardous traffic for the neighborhood.
For six weeks, the developer, Traverse Mountain residents and HOA officers have met to create a plan that would be approved by residents and the planning commission. Several concessions were made by the developer. The density would be moved from the top of the canyon to a previously zoned commercial area above SR 92. The conveyor belt transport system would be covered and a berm would be built to shield residents from blowing material. A security bond was created to prevent violation of the agreements made by Geneva Rock and TMTH.
Upon discussion, apprehension was expressed by the planning commission. Commissioner Seegmiller asked, “Who is the individual to talk to about dust control? Is he going to be biased? And are you bound by the recommendations made by the commission?” Commissioner Roger Ellis said, “I am not convinced this is a good process. Residents say it hasn’t worked in the past.”
“How is this going to work going from a 5- year plan to a 3-year plan?” queried Commissioner Hutchings.
Seegmiller further questioned, “Does the HOA have the power to make Geneva do what they want them to do? Hutchings added, “How can we be sure the grading will not be dangerous for slope stability? Ellis continued, “Is there a guarantee that the density will be moved?”
The skeptical commissioners were assured by Rob Clausen, representative for the developer, “We will be bound.” He also added, “I have a letter from Geneva Rock stating that any work not completed, the HOA will receive the bond money.” A resident added that Geneva Rock would receive an estimated 60 million dollars in revenue from exported materials. There have been no Geneva Rock representatives at Lehi Planning Commission or Traverse Mountain HOA meetings.
During the public input part of the presentation, approximately a dozen residents spoke in opposition to the new plan and several residents spoke in favor of the new plan.
Rob Ludlow, representative from the HOA explained, “I will support the plan at this time because of the changes that have been made. The project being narrowed to three years instead of five, a security bond being established and the addition of a school site for the area is a good compromise. This takes commercial completely off the table. It jumpstarts the creation of a trail head and parking will be established for church or school.” He continued, “We don’t like the wholesale change of area plan with flex density. This always guarantees max density. This should be done case by case. Dust will be a problem no matter what option is chosen. One good thing we are getting a school! We have a school crisis. Lots of children and no room for them in schools. 3,800 units yet to be developed, where will these kids go to school? Developers will not sell land to Alpine School District at a reasonable price. There are portables at Traverse Elementary right now. Bussing kids to West Lehi has been suggested because there is not land in Traverse Mountain for a school. Developers are not willing to come to the table.”
John Harris, a resident of the area spoke, “Rob does not represent the majority of residents in Traverse Mountain. I have developed asthma while living here. This is a mining operation not residential development. . .Geneva has not been a good neighbor.”
Miquel Jaimes added, “Beck and Beck (excavators) has been my neighbor for the entire time we have lived here. We have to complain to get the roads watered.”
Kyle Humphrey added to the concern about air quality and lack of schools. “I have asthma and I don’t want my kids bussed to west Lehi.”
One resident complained that Geneva Rock is a constant abuser of air quality standards. “There will be no way of controlling the dust. There is always wind here and the noise of the conveyor will not go away. This is “Travesty Mountain,” citizens have gotten a raw deal. They are offering a park with a power pole right in the middle. This is the worst place to have a gravel line. The dust being generated is poisonous.”
Rachel Richardson in an emotional plea said, “I am tired of coming to these meetings to fight the master plan. The master plan always changes– density changes. We made a new plan in 2012 and here we are discussing it again. How many times do we have to come and plead for our children’s health.”
Erin Blackhurst, also a resident of the area, “Everybody wants lower density and everybody wants a school, but this is really about the air. Adding more pollution is not acceptable. Individuals health is being compromised. The air is well over EPA standards for particulates. Make sure the air is safe.”
Lehi City Councilman, Paul Hancock, who lives in the area stated. “There will be dirt moved around. There will be dust. We have an opportunity to work with development to mitigate the problems. The developer is willing to work with residents. We need a school. We cannot force developers to come down on price of land. The school site is good. I voice my support for the concept plan. It is a win-win for the community.”
The planning commission continued the discussion with Hutchings stating, “Are we setting a precedent to trade school sites for grading permission. Can we put trust in dust mitigation measures?”
Seegmiller stated, “I am concerned that the security bond is not enough.”
Hutchings added, “I don’t like dangling a school in front of you to get this approved. We don’t like the flex designation. We want to know what the product is going to look like.”
Ross Dinsdale, Lehi City staff engineer added, “We can move forward with a positive recommendation and that will put into motion the conditions.”
Planning Commissioner Abram Nielsen added a salient comment, “We cannot solve a problem that was created years ago by allowing building on the side of these hills. There should have been more careful consideration done when such an area plan was proposed. This hillside should have been preserved.”
Hutchings continued with her reservations about the development stating, “The staff said infrastructure is not adequate.”
Dinsdale said, “We have no infrastructure up there. We will have to put it in to make it adequate for the development.”
Commissioner Ellis moved to send a positive recommendation to the city council with many conditions: a dust mitigation study must be done and an environmental impact study be done and any density transfer needed to be included in the area plan.
The commission passed the concept plan with a positive recommendation, 2 nays and 5 yeas.