Harold and Roma Layton, both 82, have lived in their small home at 50 E. Stratford Ave. for 51 years.

They raised their daughter there and expected to stay rooted. But the Laytons have the misfortune of having a progressive address. FHP, a large health maintenance organization, plans to use the Laytons' property - and that of their neighbors - to build their new hospital and related buildings.It's an often-told story, that of development squeezing out a well-established neighborhood. Of elderly residents who don't have anywhere to move. Of properties invested with more emotional value than commercial value.

The Laytons received an offer of $35,000 for their home. They say they can't find a comparable property for that price. But even if they don't accept the offer, the city has the power to condemn their property and force them out.

"We are being treated so badly down there, and we just want to get out whole," said Layton, who is among a group of residents and business owners launching war against South Salt Lake's Redevelopment Agency. The group is accusing the RDA of bulldozing through their neighborhood, at the expense of residents, to pave the way for FHP's new multimillion dollar medical complex.

"We believe they are putting progress over people," said Marge Chambers, who also owns a home on Stratford. "All they (residents) want is enough money to replace what they have. It's wicked to force any of us to make a choice. We either accept the miserable offer they make or hire an attorney. We can't afford either."

FHP spokesman Jim McPherson said the company offered 90 percent of each property's appraised value. "That 90 percent was determined to be an equitable amount after really looking at the neighborhood's deteriorated condition over the past 10 years."

If the company can't reach an agreement with property owners, negotiations are handled by the RDA.

FHP has purchased more than 70 percent of the 28 acres needed for the project, which is located from I-80 to 2700 South, between State and Main Streets. The first chunk of property, north of Stratford Avenue, cost $5 million. Land for the second phase is expected to cost $4 million.

But a few property owners haven't agreed with the health-care company on a price.

Jonnalyne Walker, RDA executive director, said the city is aware of the problem but is required by law to buy properties at fair market values. The city hires independent appraisers to determine that value.

"We would love to give all of them what they want, but properties have a value," she said. "We understand these people have 35 years of life in those homes. The problem is how do you put a value on that. I don't think anyone has answered that question yet - even the courts."

Property owners have legal recourse if they are not pleased with RDA offer, but many the Stratford neighborhood say they are too old, too ill and too poor to battle it out in court.

Others have hired attorneys to fight the city they've called home most of their lives.

"The RDA has a legal right to steal, but I feel there is a moral responsibility here. Our elected officials have a responsibility and accountability to the people under their jurisdiction," Chambers said."When they forget about their needs, it becomes an abuse of power. This is an abusive situation."

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2 sides to story

"We are being treated so badly down there, and we just want to get out whole," said Harold Layton. The Laytons received an offer of $35,000 for their home. They say they can't find a comparable property for that price.

FHP spokesman Jim McPherson said the company offered 90 percent of each property's appraised value. "That 90 percent was determined to be an equitable amount after really looking at the neighborhood's deteriorated condition over the past 10 years."