Plans for a residential development in the Riverbottoms area will preserve the wetlands and natural environment as much as possible, according to the developer.
But residents are concerned about the threat the development poses to the area's fragile environment. One resident is so concerned he's hired two attorneys to block the project.Douglas A. Nielson, developer of the Woods at Riverside project, said materials given to the Provo City Council Tuesday by attorneys representing resident J.B. Bonelli create a false picture of the project.
"We have no interest in circumventing the federal regulations regarding wetlands," said Nielson. "If I thought we were raping and pillaging the land, I wouldn't be doing it."
The Woods at Riverside is a planned single-family residential project near 3300 North on the Provo River. Tuesday the council approved a zone change that reduces the number of building lots in the development from 105 to 56.
Nielson said 105 lots could have been created without destroying wetlands in the area but that the more restrictive zoning will preserve the environment even more.
It is a beautiful piece of property, Nielson said. A year of planning has gone into making the project compatible with the environment. A minimal number of trees will be taken out. As much as possible, building will accommodate the natural setting, he said.
Residents came to the meeting to ask the council to overturn the preliminary project approval given by the Provo Planning Commission. They want more review of the project's environmental and traffic effects. However, the council took no action on that issue, saying its approval was not needed.
Project opponents expressed particular concern that a bulldozer was at the project site Monday. Jeffrey Appel, an attorney representing Bonelli, called the Army Corps of Engineers informing the agency that wetlands were endangered. The Army Corps of Engineers enforces federal laws protecting wetlands. Corps of Engineers Project Manager Drasa Maciunas came to Provo Monday and issued a stop-work order.
Maciunas said a bulldozer was going back and forth over an area to clear brush for surveyors. The bulldozer had crossed over wetlands but no fine for a violation was issued. Maciunas said the wetlands were not destroyed.
Developers must get a permit if wetlands are to be filled in, said Maciunas, but the developer of the Woods at Riverside does not intend to fill in any wetlands.
Another objection raised by opponents to the development is that the area is used by eagles, an issue that was not addressed when the Planning Commission gave the preliminary project approval. Eagle nesting grounds are protected by federal law.
City Council members asked if eagles nested in the area, or were just spotted there. No one at the meeting could answer the question.
Shawn Bagley, non-game technician for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said Thursday that eagles and other birds of prey roost in the tall trees along the Provo River. He said bald eagles do not nest there, and he doubts that golden eagles do.