GENOLA Some say vandalism on a Genola town councilman's property in this relatively crime-free area could be a vindictive act for his opposition to a controversial subdivision.
Councilman Chris Greenwood stepped outside his home near 700 South Main early Friday to find all the shade trees in front of his house and along a 300-foot circular drive 11 in total had been cut down, leaving thin, 3-to-4-foot tall stumps protruding from the ground. Police suspect the person or persons responsible struck sometime between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Greenwood said he's lived in Genola for seven years without experiencing an incident like this. He finds it remarkable vandals did this to his property just days after he spoke out against a measure to lift a temporary injunction banning building on a subdivision that's been a divisive issue for the community for quite some time.
"I don't know if this is a message that someone is trying to send to us," Greenwood said, "but if it is, the response is, 'This shall not stand."'
While Greenwood said he doesn't like to speculate, he wonders if the midnight marauders took exception to his outspoken opposition to the joint venture between Genola and Planning Commission Chairman Marty Larson because of perceived noncompliance and town officials' conflict of interests in the project.
"It's strangely coincidental," he said.
Santaquin Police Sgt. Kris Johnson said law enforcement agents have investigated the scene and have no suspects at this time. He said the incident qualifies as a third-degree felony and could be punishable by as much as five years in prison.
On Wednesday, the council revisited a May 28 vote to lift a temporary injunction on the Genola Meadows subdivision at 350 E. 800 North. The injunction was set on the development because some residents said it was out of compliance with town code that mandates a minimum lot size of 2.5 acres eight of the 10 lots range from 2.08 to 2.31 acres.
The council voted 3-2 to lift the injunction, but Greenwood said his colleague, Councilman Bryan Draper, failed to disclose that he holds trust deeds on three of the lots in that subdivision when he voted to lift the injunction along with Mayor Eric Hazelet and Councilman Michael Vail. Genola resident Emily Clinger filed a formal complaint with Hazelet, stating she thinks the nondisclosure violated Utah code.
In a June 25 Town Council meeting, Hazelet said that after doing some research he felt a misstep in protocol occurred and the council would revote on the injunction after Draper publicly disclosed his interest in the project. He also relieved Draper of his duties overseeing the town's water department. At the time, an attorney for Draper said he didn't believe his client legally had a conflict of interest in the development, though he did publicly state Draper held three trust deeds on Genola Meadows lots.
Notwithstanding, the council upheld its previous decision in a 3-2 vote Wednesday night Greenwood and Councilman Kendell Ewell opposed lifting the injunction. What puzzled Greenwood at the time is that Draper didn't publicly disclose his interest during the meeting.
"They just wanted to revote again," he said. "It makes no sense."
Hazelet disregarded Greenwood's protest, saying it had been disclosed previously. Hazelet and Draper did not return multiple requests for comment Friday.
Most of the townspeople have shown support for the Greenwoods in the aftermath of the tree-cutting and expressed their disgust for the handiwork of "scumbags," said Genola resident Sandra Greenwood, who is no relation to the councilman.
"It's downright rotten," she said. "it's like a hate crime ... someone has a vendetta."
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest, Sandra Greenwood said. In the meantime, they've set up flags at the stumps of the fallen trees."This is America," Sandra Greenwood said. "We have the right to question; we have a right to freedom."