SPANISH FORK — Five residents sponsored a request to incorporate the rural community of Benjamin in Utah County, but opposition is already mounting, leading to a call for civility among neighbors.
In a public hearing on Wednesday, Boyd Reynolds said that the five — his wife, Janet, Carl Shepherd, Glen Baadsgaard, James Moon and Connie Benson — were only attempting to keep Benjamin under local control, rather than succumb to potential annexation from neighboring cities. He urged that neighbors remain friendly with each other.
Already Salem, Spanish Fork and Payson have expressed intentions to divide up the undeveloped Benjamin interchange at I-15 and state Route 164, although Spanish Fork has no plans to annex the community itself, Spanish Fork city planner David Anderson said.
The city's annexation policy plan has changed little over decades, he said. All three cities have spent thousands of dollars to develop infrastructure to service the interchange and reached an agreement for it years ago.
"I don't think the incorporation of Benjamin crossed (city officials') minds," Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson said at the hearing in an attempt to stop fear of a land grab.
Anderson and Commissioners Steve White and Larry Ellertson conducted the hearing at the Riverview Elementary School. The meeting was the first step in the incorporation process, designed to review the boundaries, which currently match the two wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that serve the 12-square-mile farming community.
"Change comes one way or another. … It's just a matter of how you want your change," Shepherd said, asserting that incorporation would give residents more of a say in their community's destiny.
If the five petitioners decide to go forward, they have 90 days after the hearing to file an incorporation petition, which leads to a feasibility study by the county commissioners. Once the effort fills all the requirements, an election is held to name the mayor and five council members.
Because Benjamin's population is just shy of 1,000 people it would become a town if approved. When the population exceeds 1,000 it becomes a fifth-class city, deputy county attorney Robert Moore said.
However, several large landowners voiced opposition to the plan. Many feared higher taxes and the inability of the rural community named after pioneer Benjamin Stewart to raise enough money to provide police, fire and other services the county provides now.
Cloyd Harrison held up five $100 bills to the incorporation proponents, offering it "if they can lower my taxes by just $1."
But if taxes go up even $10, he said, he expected the petitioners to pay $500 so the widows in the community could pay their taxes.
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