MAPLETON It's been a long journey, involving delays caused by preliminary injunctions and courtroom battles, but Thursday the City Council rezoned a piece of hotly contested property on Maple Mountain.
However, the conflicts are far from resolved.
For the past seven months, a preliminary injunction bound Mapleton Council members, forbidding them from taking action on a request made by Dr. Wendell Gibby to upgrade his 120-acre Maple Mountain parcel from a critical environment zone to a planned development on which 47 single-family residential units can be built. Last Thursday, 4th District Court lifted the injunction, and the City Council gathered in a special meeting to approve the rezoning.
Before the vote, Mapleton Mayor Laurel Brady said she understood the rezoning is a long-standing, controversial issue for the community. But she said that, contrary to some community perception, the council was not voting out of fear of a potential lawsuit.
"I want to be very clear on this point," she said. "If we are sued by anyone, we will defend ourselves."
Brady said the council was considering the rezoning because lawmakers threatened to introduce legislation that would interfere with the city's rights in certain matters as a result of the ongoing controversy.
Mapleton resident David Nemelka said he didn't oppose a rezoning or a development, but he didn't like the way the deal was reached.
"I'm opposed to getting specials or concessions," he said.
Gibby was out of town during the meeting, but his wife, Trudy, and attorney Dayle Jeffs were present. Jeffs said there's been enough delay, and it's time to move on.
"Now is the time to catch up on lost time," he said.
The council voted 3-0 to approve the rezoning City Councilman Brian Wall abstained and City Councilwoman Ann Tolley was out of town.
The struggle over Gibby's property, located generally at 2000 E. Dogwood Drive, goes back six years. Gibby and the city have sparred over issues ranging from civil rights to eminent domain. To avoid multiple pending lawsuits, the parties entered a memorandum of understanding May 15, 2007, in which both agreed to several terms, including a rezoning of Gibby's property.
A group of Mapleton residents, calling themselves Friends of Maple Mountain, opposed the rezoning and asked for a referendum. Their request was denied, and they filed a temporary restraining order Oct. 15 to bar the rezoning until a court heard the matter.
In the meantime, the city issued grading permits to Gibby to allow him to move power lines to the east side of his property. As excavation crews cut a road up the side of the mountain, questions were raised about the permits' legality. The excavation was later called to a halt, and the Mapleton Board of Adjustments overturned the issuance of the permits.
In late February, 4th District Judge Darold McDade ruled the rezoning wouldn't go to the citizens. Last week, he lifted the preliminary injunction, and the City Council went ahead with the rezoning.
Jim Lundberg, a member of Friends of Maple Mountain, said the group can appeal the court's decision, but they haven't decided whether they will.
"We haven't made that determination whether we want to expend the money and the effort at this time," he said.
The city and Gibby have other details to sort out, such as whether the memorandum of understanding is still valid, Jeffs said. In recent months, Gibby has requested that the city add 13 more units to his development, so lot sizes might be renegotiated.
"That may be part of what goes forward," he said.
But Brady said increasing the lot sizes would require another rezoning.
"He agreed to 47," she said. "Anything beyond that, he's going to have to go through the process again."
Meanwhile, Gibby is embroiled in another lawsuit with Randy Graham, a former partner with Gibby in his development company, MCBRS LLC.
Despite scuffles in the past and current uncertainties, City Councilman Mike Cobia said he hoped Gibby and the city can resolve their differences and move forward, relocating the power lines in a sensitive manner.
"We can either have a development, or we can have a war," he said to Jeffs and Trudy Gibby Thursday night. "And this time, it's up to you."
"If we wanted war, we wouldn't be here," Jeffs said.
But Graham, who was present at the meeting, questioned Gibby's intent to resolve the ongoing issues with the city and said Gibby resented the city.
"I believe Mr. Gibby did feel like he was persecuted from time to time," Graham said.
On the day they set out to excavate the road in October, Graham said Gibby unloaded a bulldozer and then said, "Let the rape of Maple Mountain begin."
Lundberg said that statement is indicative of Gibby's attitude about preserving any kind of relationship with the city.
"Wendell is very vindictive," he said. "His intent here is ... to try to hurt the citizens by going up there to leave his mark literally on the mountain."
Jeffs said Lundberg is resentful in his own right.
"Jim Lundberg is just a cheap shot because he didn't get his way on the referendum," he said. "It's an unfair accusation to say anything about (Gibby) not trying to work with (the city)."
Jeffs said Gibby plans to re-vegetate after the road is excavated.
Brady said the city will keep a close watch on how the development progresses.
"We're going to be very very careful with whatever we allow him to do up there," she said.
Brady said she understands the rezoning can be hard for residents to understand, so she encourages anyone with questions to talk to her."We decided this was the right thing to do," she said. "The only thing to do at this point."