DRAPER — A hailstorm of accusations of betraying public trust and dishonoring commitments to preserve Draper's unique wilderness was unleashed at an overflowing City Council meeting Tuesday night.
The "Save the Hollows" effort drew about 100 people to the meeting, where more than 30 speakers urged city leaders to stop a development in the Suncrest neighborhoods.
But several supporters argued the land sale would be the fiscally responsible thing to do, while also aiming to preserve the city's more than 4,800 acres of open lands.
The meeting extended more than four hours before the City Council decided to delay a decision until its Dec. 20 meeting.
More than 1,000 people have signed the "Save The Hollows" petition, calling on the City Council not to sell an additional 55 acres of land to Blue Bison Development. The developer and city agreed in 2012 to develop 110 acres in the East Hollows area, along the Alpine border, for about 400 single-family homes and townhouses.
The City Council finds itself in a tough spot, with some council members conflicted over what they call a duty to be fiscally responsible while also trying to respect the wishes of Draper's passionate open-space advocates.
Supporters of the development say selling the land would bring in more than $7.2 million to help pay down the $18 million in bond debt the city used to purchase open space in recent years.
It's an opportunity that Jaime Pogue, chairman of Draper's Parks and Trails Committee, said would be "stupid" to pass up.
"People who are truly for open-space protection, you should get behind this," Pogue said. "This is a sliver, and there's an opportunity at our door right now to get the money back now."
But Draper resident Trent Olsen said "every effort should be made to preserve" every inch of open space in the city.
"I'm hearing a lot of good intentions," he said. "But let's not forget (that) taxpayers paid for preservation of open space. They didn't pay for real estate investment."
Leigh Brennan, a homeowner in the Suncrest neighborhood who helped spearhead the "Save the Hollows" effort, presented the 1,000-signature petition to the City Council.
Brennan said residents have been under the impression that Draper "promised" to protect the land when it created its master plan earlier this year.
"Look at the people tonight," she said at the meeting. "There are people who really care about this open space."
Jake Satterfield, with Blue Bison, called the issue a "simple matter of math," calling Tuesday's crowd a "small percentage" of Draper residents who are "very vocal" about open space.
Satterfield noted that all Draper taxpayers are now footing the bill for the open-space bond, and the sale of a fraction of the city's open space could pay off a majority of that debt.
"From a common sense standpoint, I think it's grossly unfair to say Draper doesn't care about open space," he said in an interview Wednesday. "We have a massive mountain range, and 4,800 (acres) that's still there. They're splitting hairs."
Satterfield added that the proposal is a "no-brainer" and would be a "win-win" for both open-space advocates and Draper taxpayers.
City Councilman Jeff Stenquist, a vocal proponent of the project, said Wednesday the public pushback was "to be expected."
"Everyone obviously values the open space we have been able to preserve, and they want to keep the current atmosphere we have in Draper. That's something we all certainly agree on," he said. "There are definitely arguments to be made on both sides, so now it's up to the council to make a decision on how we weigh the desires we all have."
Stenquist said Draper is in a difficult situation, caught between "balancing the needs of the many and the concerns of the few, especially a vocal minority." He noted that a conservation easement to create a protective shield around Draper's open space is "on the table."