After a seven-hour meeting Monday night, the Mapleton Board of Adjustment overturned city officials' decision to issue grading permits that approved excavation on heavily contested Maple Mountain property.

In response to an appeal filed in late October by Mapleton resident Jim Lundberg and Friends of Maple Mountain Inc., the board reviewed city staff's approval of two grading permits to Dr. Wendell Gibby — which Gibby initially applied for in 2003 — on Oct. 15. The grading permits would allow Gibby to plow a 12-foot-wide road and move power lines to the east side of his property, located at 2000 E. Dogwood Drive.

After lengthy discussion, the board ruled city ordinances were violated when the grading permits were approved. Board member Boyd Adams called the meeting a laborious, difficult task.

"For us to vote against the City Council was a hard thing," he said. "But I feel like, as a board, we made the right decision."

Specifically, the board decided the permits violated city code because they were not issued pursuant to an approved development plan, the developer did not show good cause as determined by the planning commission, they were granted without an approved site plan and the proposed vehicle access roads were not approved pursuant to an approved site plan, City Attorney Lyle Fuller said.

Gibby did not attend the meeting, but his lawyer, Dayle Jeffs, briefed him afterwards. He said the decision is "not atypical for this board." He also said he is disappointed two board members demonstrated a bias against him by signing a petition calling for a referendum to decide whether his property should be upgraded from a critical-environment to a planned-development zone.

Adams, who signed the petition, said he initially excused himself from discussion when the board gathered in mid-November because he didn't want any perceived biases to compromise the board's proceedings. Later, an attorney told him he could participate because he had no conflicts of interest or financial interests in the board's decision.

"If I had a bias Monday night, it was I did not want to be there," he said. "It's a no-win situation."

Adams also said he was not voting for or against Gibby; he was merely assessing whether city staff followed proper protocol.

"I would have done almost anything to move this project forward," he said. "My fear is our decision has prolonged the agony of a constant blood-letting and litigation."

Gibby said Adams' fear may be well-founded. The grading permits were conditions in a memorandum of understanding that was intended to settle several pending lawsuits between Gibby and Mapleton. He said the city will have to appeal the board's decision, but Fuller said it is still uncertain whether the city will appeal.

"We are reviewing that right now and haven't made a decision," he said.

In other legal developments, lawyers representing Mapleton and Friends of Maple Mountain Inc. have finished the testimony portion of a trial Friday that will determine whether voters can have a say in the rezoning of Gibby's property. Fuller said each party will file their post-trial briefs by Jan. 11 and closing arguments will take place Jan. 18. He said 4th District Judge Darold McDade should reach a ruling quickly.

Gibby said he's reasonably certain the court will rule in his favor. During testimony, city officials stated they spent 3,000 hours studying expert opinion offered on the rezone.

"The average voter is not going to have access to all that information," he said.

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