The five-hour Lehi City Planning Commission Meeting last week was dominated by two agenda items; Arsenal Soccer’s concept plan for soccer fields at the former Peck property, and a 7-Eleven at the northeast corner of 2100 North 2300 West. After several hours of public input and discussion, the concept plans for both items were given a positive recommendation by the Planning Commission and will move on to City Council for final approval.
“We have the land for parks, but we have no money to build them, so we have to get creative,” explained Mayor Mark Johnson representing the City of Lehi as the applicant for the Peck Park concept. “We either keep a weed patch for another ten years, or we make this agreement with Arsenal and start developing the land,” Johnson continued. In the proposed arrangement, Arsenal Soccer will develop 20 of the 72-acre parcel on a ten-year lease from Lehi City. After ten years, Arsenal may extend the lease five more years. In between soccer seasons, Lehi City will have full use of the 20 acres and during the season the city will receive access to 30% use of the fields.
Mayor Johnson mentioned a land study done by Landmark Design and Hales Engineering to determine the best place for baseball fields. The firm concluded that the Peck Park property was more suited to open fields. (Lehi City is building baseball fields at the Mellor-Rhodes park near Dry Creek Elementary.) Arsenal’s initial development of the 20 acres of Peck Park does not include sidewalks or restrooms but includes a portable trailer bathroom facility. Arsenal will maintain the fields, parking lots, and bathroom trailers (including Lehi’s 30%) during their lease.
“Vets Ballpark was made with volunteer help and improved over the years when we had the money. The Sports Complex was called ‘Contractor Park’ initially because the work was donated. A $13 million bond to build the Legacy Center was voted down in 2003, but we knew we needed it, so we cheap-ed out everywhere we could and built it for around $4.5 million,” explained Mayor Johnson. “When citizens turn down the bond, we gotta go cheap because that’s what they’re asking for when they vote down the bond and the RAP tax. We can build very good facilities on the cheap,” continued Johnson.
Ryan Wood, Lehi City Attorney, addressed the Planning Commission and gave background on the lease agreement between the city and the Peck family that was put to paper in December 2005. “In that original lease agreement, there is no restriction on specific use for this property. It can only be used as a park, but it doesn’t say anything about a specific use,” said Wood.
When the public hearing was re-opened on the Peck Park agenda item, citizens from the packed chambers lined up to make comments. The first citizen to come to the microphone was former Lehi mayor, Ken Greenwood. “First of all, the Legacy Center is not cheap. It was by personal ingenuity that the Legacy Center is there,” he began. “Two things were promised to the Pecks when we made this deal; it would be called Thomas J. Peck Park, and it would include some type of four-plex ballpark,” explained Greenwood.
“Tony Peck and I spent hours and hours talking about these things. I would hate to see this not honored because we didn’t write it down specifically. The city received this property because of promises that were made to the Pecks. It is not because of incompetence that this property is in Lehi City’s name today. I think it’s unconscionable that a legal body like this or the City Council would kick dirt in the face of that agreement. I’m glad they’re doing something with the land, just leave room for the ballfields,” continued Greenwood.
Several members of the Peck family attended the Planning Commission meeting. They came prepared with an alternate plan for the park and placement of Arsenal’s soccer fields. “Soccer fields will fit on the north side of the property with plenty of room for parking and bathrooms. The best place for competition baseball or softball fields is in the southern portion of the property. We propose that Arsenal move their 20 acres to the northern part of the property. The Peck family is willing to do the grading for free,” said Jade Peck Rodabough. “There’s little to no chance the city would rip out utilities and move them after ten years and put ballfields there. If they leave that space open it will be easier to put in regulation softball fields.” Rodabough also mentioned that the Pecks are willing to sell 17 acres of land they still own on the northern side of the property to Arsenal.
“I propose that we work together. If we sell those 17 acres to Arsenal, they don’t have to give it back in ten years. That way Lehi isn’t out of compliance leasing a private park to a public entity,” said Cole Peck. “You’re setting a precedent here. I have 17 acres that need sewer and water that has to flow downhill through that park, or it will have to be pumped out with a lift station. So, if I was a developer coming to you today, would you let me build a roto-mill road with no curb, no sidewalk, and no bathrooms? You all know the answer would be no. Whether or not the City Council has made a deal, they need to be held accountable. The City needs to be held accountable,” continued Cole Peck.
Abram Nielsen served as acting chairperson for the Planning Commission at the July 11 meeting. Nielsen expressed concerns about the parking being 600 yards away from the soccer fields in Arsenal’s concept plan, as well as garbage and security for the 20-acre park. “There have been concepts and ideas brought forth tonight and a possibility for a permanent place for Arsenal, something for the city to consider. I know something is better than nothing, but we as a city should put our best foot forward in doing what we expect our citizens to do. We’ve been waiting 15 years, why rush to get it done now?” Nielsen asked.
Mayor Mark Johnson stood once again to address the Planning Commission. “We can move the money we’ve designated for Mellor-Rhodes and put it into Peck Park if that’s what you recommend,” said a frustrated Johnson. “The city has spent $254,000 in property taxes over the last ten years at Peck Park. We’ve received no benefit from that. Material has been moved out of that park and we have not seen one penny of that, yet we leased it. We paid for it. I’ll be glad when it’s done.”
“My goal this year is to start a design process to use these parks before they’re completed. I wish we could finish them all at once, but we don’t have that option. These parks are owned by the citizens of Lehi, not anyone else. The only obligation here today is to build a park for the citizens. We will figure out what’s most appropriate,” continued Johnson.
A motion was made by Planning Commission Member Scott Bunker to send a positive recommendation to the City Council for Lehi City’s request for the Peck Park concept, which was unanimously approved.
Although many citizens left after the Peck Park agenda item, some stayed to give additional input on the 7-Eleven concept plan for the northeast corner of 2100 North 2300 West. The item was tabled on June 13, 2019, to provide Planning Commission members time to research the studies brought up during the public hearing. Douglas Ahlstrom, Assistant Lehi City Attorney, explained that the Planning Commission needs “substantial evidence of a serious threat to public health, safety, and welfare” to give a negative recommendation for the project to the City Council. There must be a “compelling, countervailing public interest.”
“The state has opted not to regulate the proximity of gas stations to neighborhoods. Traffic is more of a risk on these projects than the negligible amount of benzine released at a gas station. This is a clear-cut permitted use,” said Logan Johnson, representing 7-Eleven.
Abram Nielsen opened the item to public comment to accommodate three men who had come prepared with more information to add. David Woolsey referenced a court case involving Patterson Homes and American Fork City in which the state supreme court ruled in favor of American Fork City. “’The vested rights rule is not based on constitutional or property rights. Mere adherence to formal rules does not entitle a property owner to the approval of a development application,’” Woolsey quoted from the state supreme court ruling.
The Planning Commission members discussed the benzine studies and court cases at length. Commissioner Brent Everett pointed out that the studies brought forward by citizens at the June 13 meeting were done in Brazil where the regulations are very different from the United States.
“Yes, there is a risk having a gas station near a neighborhood, but this isn’t a countervailing risk,” concluded Commissioner Roger Ellis. The motion to give a positive recommendation for the 7-Eleven concept to the City Council was approved by a unanimous vote.
“This is on your head,” said one of the gentlemen who opposed the gas station, pointing to Douglas Ahlstrom as he exited the council chambers.
The other 14 items on the agenda were given positive recommendations and will move forward to City Council. They include;
- Mitchell Grove concept for a 19-lot residential development at 1193 West 1500 North.
- Lehi Roller Mills LLC request for a Street Vacation for a portion of 200 South.
- Christopher Baum’s request for an 8-foot fence at 71 East 200 North
- Robert Poirier’s request for an exception to elevation requirements for the Slim Chickens restaurant site plan at 1250 East State Street.
- Wayne Davis’s request for a conditional use permit for Bout Time Pub & Grill at 1820 Traverse Parkway.
- Compass Outdoor’s request to allow for an extension of an electronic billboard overlay.
- Lehi City’s review of a Development Code Amendment to add caretaker units to the Commercial and Regional Commercial zones.
- Brandon McDougald’s request for approval of the Jaguar Land Rover concept at 2300 North Ashton Blvd.
- Tony Trane’s request for approval of The Ridge Office concept at 3100 North Triumph Blvd.
- Fieldstone Homes request for approval of conditional use for material processing for Canyon Trail at Fox Canyon Road and Vialetto Way.
- Lehi City’s request for review of a Development Code Amendment to Section 12-B.050 Grading Permit Issuance. The city will now require site plans before a grading permit will be issued.