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Haws Co.
The transit-oriented Station Park development in west Farmington will include housing, offices, retail and a commuter rail station.

FARMINGTON — On muddy land with healthy weeds, about 120 acres are being primed for development in this Davis County city.

Housing is planned, retail and business offices. It's to be centered around the Farmington commuter rail station and is touted as a future "showcase" for transit-oriented development in Utah and the United States.

Think The Gateway in Salt Lake City, but more.

As of Friday, construction is the next step for developers of this land — one of the largest redevelopment agency (RDA) projects in Davis County. A taxing entity committee voted 5-3 to approve an $18.5 million budget for the development.

That money will come from property taxes generated from the project and reinvested into the project for 20 years. The money would have otherwise gone to entities like school districts, the state and city.

Farmington schools would have received roughly 57 percent, or about $10.5 million of the budgeted dollars.

Developer Rich Haws called Friday's decision "great news," giving a thumbs-up as he watched the vote from the Farmington City Council chambers.

"We are very appreciative of the city and county support," said Haws, president of the Haws Co. and part of a development team, Stonehenge Development Partners, planning the project.

"If it wasn't for a political position, I believe even the school district would have voted in our favor," he continued. "Even the school district saw the benefit."

The three dissenters were representatives from the Davis County School District and the state school board.

"I look at this project and I see there are significant advantages it will bring to the area," said Bruce Williams, assistant superintendent/

business administrator for the Davis school district. "Philosophically, I don't agree with RDA funding when it comes to the school district."

During the recent legislative session, lawmakers debated whether cities were misusing their RDA powers, stealing money from schools to subsidize developers. They passed legislation that put a one-year stop to any RDA projects used for retail development.

In June, the state will study the use and scope of RDA powers. An audit of RDA projects will also begin in June.

Farmington officials say they are correctly utilizing a tool that has been abused in the past. The city has little retail, a small tax base and bonding is too risky, said Farmington Mayor David Connors. An RDA project was the only viable option to bring needed commercial development.

"It's almost impossible to provide the level of services residents demand and should demand and are entitled to demand," said Connors. "Residential development does not pay for itself."

The RDA development, known as Station Park, should help city and county economies, he said. Both entities want to lure high-tech businesses to the project area and provide a draw for the public with small and large retail, a movie theater, offices and housing.

The ease of transportation to the area is also anticipated to bring people and business to the development, Connors said.

Station Park is near the Park Lane interchange in Farmington, where I-15 and U.S. 89 intersect. By early 2008, a commuter rail station should be built near the site and, perhaps later, the Legacy Parkway.

"I believe it makes a lot of sense," said Farmington city manager Max Forbush. "We want to do it right, and I'm not being critical of other cities. Given our geography, given the fact we're near the confluence of a lot of highways coming together, it just made a lot of sense that we practice the principles of good planning, and especially around transit corridors."

On June 1, Farmington will hold a meeting for residents to review plans for Station Park and the just-approved budget. Within the coming weeks, Haws plans to announce several retailers that intend to build on the site.

Station Park is the largest of several developments being planned along the Weber-to-Salt-Lake-City commuter rail line. The Utah Transit Authority anticipates being able to begin utility and fill work on the rail line sometime this year.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com