The mayor of Spring City, which has been named on the National Historic Register, said he wants residents to clean up their property, or he'll do it for them. Even if it means tearing down a few possibly valuable buildings.
Mayor Ronald Christensen said he plans to mail letters to about 60 residents he says are in violation of the city's beautification ordinance.The mayor is threatening to demolish some of the unsafe buildings despite their historical designation and then send the owners the bill.
The buildings sit on lots that are covered with other trash, including old Christmas trees and disposable diapers.
Spring City, with a population of 850, is the only town in Utah that can boast that its boundaries are identical to those designating it a site on the National Historic Register.
Tom Carter, an architectural historian at the University of Utah, said Spring City is the best preserved of Utah's early Mormon settlements. Its historical designation, however, means little as far as protecting its property from development or destruction.
"One thing we've always pressed for in a town like Spring City is to try and come up with a long-term plan that includes what the designation means to the city," he said.
For Spring City residents, the designation means that the town's Pioneer Day celebration in July draws a crowd from throughout the state.
Others, like Carter, find themselves drawn to its tranquil surroundings. He has purchased and restored an old Spring City pioneer home.
But some of the run-down properties pose a dilemma, he said.
"You can't just say that these buildings are cool old buildings and we should keep them for no reason," he said. "And you can't say I hate old buildings and tear them down, either."
Christensen said the city has no intention of destroying historical sites. He also said those opposed to his call for a town cleanup are in the minority.
Roger Roper, historic preservation coordinator for the State Historical Society, said he has taken several calls from residents concerned about the mayor's approach.
He said it might be considered "destructive" and wonders why the city couldn't promise to stabilize some of the ramshackle old buildings and bill the owners, instead of threatening demolition.
Yet he said the decision will rest with local authorities.
Arlea Howell, the local historical society representative, said the problem is mostly money.
"If we could find someone with money to help us, well that is what we really need," she said.
Howell said she will form a committee in hopes of locating funding and workers to help with the restoration and cleanup.
The letters ask property owners to attend a special City Council meeting Tuesday, April 30, to discuss the situation, or face legal action if the areas are not cleaned up in 60 days.
Christensen said if the sites aren't acceptable after the deadline, the City Council can vote to authorize the cleanup.
"The word is out and everyone knows who is on the list," he said. "We are hoping that the consequence will help people clean up."
Roper said the historical society doesn't have the money to help with the cleanup.
"If they were to tear things down, it would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water," he said.