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Open space deal: Good, bad or ugly

Draper (Salt Lake Tribune) » It's either a taxpayer rip-off and a "sweetheart deal" for a developer --- or the best thing "since sliced bread" for the public and Salt Lake County open space.

Despite a unanimous recommendation by the county's open space advisory committee that it not do so, the Salt Lake County Council on July 21 voted 7-2 to give Draper City $2.75 million to buy 141 acres from the South Mountain development firm as open space.

The land sits on historic landslides, raising the question of whether it could ever be developed.

But in a split 3-2 vote later that day, the Draper City Council approved the deal, which also required the municipality to deed to South Mountain LC about 7.5 acres, with a potential build-out of 79 units.

By no coincidence, the compact nullified a 2005 lawsuit brought by South Mountain against Draper after the municipality ruled that much of the 141 acres could not be built upon unless the developer could demonstrate it was geologically safe.

Council members Bill Colbert and Stephanie Davis cried foul and voted against the deal.

"Why are the taxpayers bailing out a developer?" Davis asked.

The South Mountain buyout cost four to five times as much per acre when compared with other open space parcels Draper has purchased, she said. "We sweetened the deal to the point it was obscene."

Colbert called the purchase "a sweetheart deal" for South Mountain.

Original Article