The city's new municipal building should be built in a commercial area, not on scarce park land, a long-time Fruit Heights resident believes.
Bob Runnells believes so strongly in what he says that he's willing to suffer a $20,000 to $30,000 financial loss to make an acre of commercial land available to the city.Fruit Heights has $235,000 set aside to build a new municipal building to house city offices, a council meeting room and justice court. Current plans call for its construction in Nichols Park, west of U.S. 89 and adjacent to the county golf course.
Runnells is proposing a new plan: He will trade a .95-acre parcel of property in the city's commercial area at 980 S. 1250 East to the city in return for a 1.1-acre parcel of city-owned property on Mountain Road a block south of the Rock Loft building.
The property he will trade to the city is appraised at $12,000 more than the city's parcel, Runnells said, estimating it will cost him an additional $10,000 to $12,000 to extend utility lines to the city's parcel.
But the cost is worth it, he said, to preserve Nichols Park.
"I'm not opposed to construction of a new city building. We need one, and I support that," he said. "My opposition is to putting it on the park land.
"Park and recreation land is scarce and getting scarcer. Most cities are trying to acquire it, not build on it," he said. "What I'm afraid of is that as the city grows, one building will lead to another and even more of the park land will be lost."
Fruit Heights has scheduled a public meeting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, in the city offices in the Rock Loft building to review the site selection. The meeting is not a formal public hearing but a public meeting being held to hear what city residents think.
The city leases space in the Rock Loft building for its city offices, but the area is cramped with no room for expansion. According to city administrator Belva Provost, if Fruit Heights doesn't provide a better facility, it will lose the city justice court.
"The city feels putting the city office building in the park will enhance the park, but I disagree with that," said Runnells, who has lived near the park in Fruit Heights for 25 years.
"I think it's a short-term instead of long-term solution. The city building should be in the commercial area, not the park."
Nichols Park was developed by Davis County and turned over to Fruit Heights about five years ago. Runnells said he's looked at the agreement signed by the city and county governing future use of the park.
It is ambiguous in some sections, Runnells said, calling for continued use of the park for recreation but also for the benefit of both city and county residents.
"The lawyers could argue that one both ways. But I'm not interested in suing the city or taking legal action. I don't want to drag it out or punish the city, I just want the council to take a look at the alternative," said Runnells.
"They're taking the easy way, the short-term solution, rather than looking at the long-term best use," said Runnells. Runnells said others he's talked to agree with his position, and he's looking for a large turnout at Tuesday's public meeting.