MAPLETON — Raising questions of prejudice and improper procedures, Mapleton's Board of Adjustment decided Tuesday night to delay discussion on an appeal filed concerning a controversial piece of Maple Mountain acreage.

The board met to discuss an Oct. 15 appeal by Friends of Maple Mountain Inc., contesting the city's issuance of two grading permits to Wendell Gibby for use on his property at 2000 E. Dogwood Drive. But before discussion ensued, doubts were cast on some board members' ability to judge the issue without bias based on past actions.

A few months ago, more than 1,000 citizens signed a petition demanding the city hold a referendum vote to determine whether to rezone Gibby's property from a critical-environment zone to a planned-development zone. The city said the issue wasn't referable to a referendum vote, and Friends of Maple Mountain obtained a temporary restraining order until a court hearing could settle the issue.

Among the names on the petition there are signatures of two members of the Board of Adjustment — Joyce Clifton and Boyd Adams.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, City Planning Director Cory Branch called Clifton and told her it would be inappropriate for her to join in the discussion on the issuance of the grading permits — even though that is a separate issue from the referendum. He also said Adams voluntarily withdrew himself from the meeting.

Chris Bramhall, an attorney representing Friends of Maple Mountain, said the city attempted to "skinny down the board," and also said asking board members to excuse themselves from discussion is out of line.

"I think this is highly inappropriate," he said. "Why should this matter be any different than any other matter?"

Bramhall also said the entire board should be present to vote on the matter because city codes states three members need to vote to uphold the appeal, meaning his clients would have to sway three of four people.

"I don't like those odds," he said.

However, said Dayle Jeffs, attorney for Gibby, Clifton took a position on the issue the moment she signed the petition in favor of a referendum.

"You want an impartial Board of Adjustments," he said.

Clifton said the issues surrounding Gibby's land have been an ongoing controversy for years, and there's not a person in Mapleton who doesn't have feelings on the subject. She also defended her integrity, saying she could make a decision based on the facts of the case — not on her own personal feelings.

"I support the laws of Mapleton," she said.

Gibby said if a judge signed a petition saying a defendant is a murder and a rapist, he would be removed from that case. Adams voluntary excused himself from the proceedings, Gibby said, and he thinks Clifton should follow suit.

"You should, out of an abundance of conscience, recuse yourself," he said, looking Clifton square in the eyes.

The board voted to continue the meeting on Dec. 6 so they could have a full quorum present to discuss and vote on the issuance of the grading permits.

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