Andrea Hooley walks the land once owned by her great-great-grandfather where the red-tail hawk nests and eagles can still be seen.
One day recently, she came to her favorite spot to find a bulldozer had arrived before her.The place named Spring Creek by her pioneer ancestor is part of a 35-acre piece of land in the Provo River Bottoms. Located at approximately 3300 North on the Provo River, the site is included in a preliminary project plan called the Woods at Riverside Associates Inc.
The plan is for development of low-density, single-family housing.
Two weeks ago the Provo Planning Commission approved a preliminary plan for the development with the understanding that certain conditions must be met. Leland Gamette, director of community development, presented the plan and conditions to the City Council Tuesday.
The public was invited to speak on the issue. Soft-spoken but ardent, Hooley told the council of her love of the land. "We are a desert people who should cherish the wetlands," she said.
Spring Creek got its name because it is dry most the year but flows in the spring and early summer, said Hooley. She found Monday "the bulldozer had taken out the most aesthetic place." Spring Creek was gone.
The Army Corps of Engineers stopped the bulldozer Monday by issuing a cease-work order.
The list of conditions approved by the Planning Commission included a requirement for the developers to have a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Developer Douglas A. Nielson said, "I've been accused of breaking the law. I did not hire a bulldozer." He told the council that he asked construction contractor Larry Nelson to submit a bid for work on the development and that Nelson, on his own, went over to the property with a bulldozer and cut an area through the wetlands.
Nielson said the contractor was getting brush out of the way to stake out a road.
Jeffrey W. Appel, an attorney with Haley & Stolebarger of Salt Lake City, asked the council not to approve the preliminary project plan for the development. "The plan before you is very premature," Appel said.
He presented the council with a nine-page document and supporting materials outlining objections to the project. Appel is representing J.B. Bonelli, a property owner in the River Bottoms.
The objections center on environmental damage to the wetlands but include questions about access to the development and violations or non-compliance with Provo City ordinances.
Chet Waggener, Provo chief administrative officer, said the development is not in violation of the city ordinances because it is a "performance development." He explained after the council meeting that a performance development is a zone that is considered by itself and can be given variances in some areas. The City Council has approved the zone.
River Bottoms property owner Deborah Christiansen asked the City Council to delay approving the development plans to give people trying to preserve the wetlands a chance to consider options.
Councilman Stephen D. Clark said, "We hold our Planning Commission in high esteem." The commission has the best interests of the community in mind, he said, adding that if the commission approved the plan, then the council should probably do the same.
Gamette said the council was only asked to change the zoning of the area and does not act on the preliminary project approval.
The City Council took no action on the plan approved by the Planning Commission and unanimously approved the zoning change.