Ray Baldwin moved to Lehi because an Albertsons grocery store moved down the street from his house in American Fork. Four years later, another Albertsons opened about a half-mile from his new home.
"It followed us here to Lehi," he said. "It must be a conspiracy."Like Baldwin, many others are escaping to Lehi and surrounding northern Utah County cities to find the rural atmosphere that is slowly slipping away and being replaced by homes and businesses.
As they flee urban areas for a touch of country life, they, too, forward the work of developers who want to urbanize the farm land.
The population in Lehi was 8,475 in 1990, and has almost doubled since. It is projected to reach 18,000 to 21,000 by the turn of the century, according to Mountainland Association of Governments.
Eight years ago, there were 1,967 single-family homes in Lehi. There were more than 3,645 two months ago. In April, there were 4,271 units for single and multi-family occupancy in Lehi; more than 2,000 of those, including Baldwin's, are in the northeast section of town near I-15.
There is a 40-year-old controversy between preserving open space and providing people places to live, said Dave Cottle, office manager at Patterson Construction in Lehi, one of the area's biggest home builders.
"The city has to remember farmers aren't going to be there forever. Farmers come and go," he said. "The purpose of the city is to have services for the community, not to have farmland next to the grocery store."
Lehi City Manager Ed Collins, who moved to the South Town Subdivision in Lehi less than a year ago, said he likes his four-legged neighbors.
"I think those cows are just fine. They don't bother me at all; they act like dogs," he said. "I hope they are there as long as I am."
Almost every subdivision in Lehi adjoins an agricultural zone.
Resident Dean Lott looks at it from the other side of the fence. His largely undeveloped property runs up against residential land. Lott's property was part of unincorporated Utah County until four years ago when Lehi annexed it for the South Town Subdivision.
"I am not going to change what I have been doing for 35 years," Lott said. "My grandfathers fought the Indians over this land and that does not seem to matter to anyone anymore."
City Councilman Robert Fox said Lehi has been found and the growth won't stop. The role of the council is to manage lands within Lehi according to the master plan. The master plan is the council's blueprint for anticipated growth. The plan indicates proposed zoning and annexations.
But some residents say the city is not doing enough to preserve open space. However, city officials say the rural feel of Lehi is sacred and they want to preserve farming. Lehi has a right-to-farm ordinance that supposedly protects farmers' rights. To further protect agricultural lands, planning and zoning is trying to prepare an amendment to the ordinance, said Diana Webb, city planner.
"We have some landowners who are concerned about the possibility of losing their agricultural rights," Webb said. "Not so much that the city will take their rights away, but they're concerned that if development occurs around them, the neighbors will gradually complain and things will become so difficult for them that they will be forced to sell their property and move."
Sometimes Lott feels that way. He does not own as many cows as he has in the past. He said it is not worth the problems with neighbors. Fighting the growth has made him at times consider selling his land and moving away.
"We need to slow the (growth) down and get the infrastructure first. I give up on the City Council; they all got nothing but bucks," he said. "They talk about open space, but they don't do anything."
Developer Jim Yates said development is natural and necessary so upcoming generations have a place to live. He is turning his Lehi property from agricultural to residential.
"You're going to lose it sooner or later; it's just one of those deals," Yates said.
"Eventually it will all just be subdivisions," Cottle said. "Developers don't go away; they'll just keep working and find some other property."
Webb said change and growth is difficult for Lehi long-time residents.
"I think that most people are opposed to change. We are all happy with our lives the way they are," said Webb, a Lehi native. "When new people move in, it's maybe hard to get used to, but I think that wears off pretty fast. It's just hard, especially in the agricultural areas,for people to see all that open space eaten up by development."
Mayor Kenneth Green said the best thing that animal owners can do is buy the land next to their property when it comes up for sale to prevent a zoning conflict in the future.