March 19, 2014 | Standard Examiner | By Bryon Saxton |
A Farmington citizens group is applauding city leaders for the stand they have taken on the proposed $587 million West Davis Corridor project.
City Manager Dave Millheim said Wednesday the group, known as Save Farmington, was planning to present a letter of gratitude to the mayor and city council for the strong position they have taken against the Utah Department of Transportation’s ‘s plan to construct the West Davis freeway.
The city is opposing the preferred route alignment for the 20-mile road stretching from Farmington to West Haven in Weber County based on its impact to the city’s public recreation areas and the Great Salt Lake shoreline.
The city has already spent about $100,000 in legal work in challenging the alignment where it impacts conservation easement property, Millheim said.
Save Farmington was established in 2012 and consist of hundreds of members from all over the city, said Lori Kalt, president of the group.
The proposed route would encircle Farmington with a third freeway. UDOT’s plan would construct the freeway through public recreation areas and conservation easements owned by the city, according to officials.
UDOT’s preferred route, commonly referred to as the Glovers Lane option, would construct a freeway through western and southern Farmington, through residential neighborhoods, taking an unspecified number of families’ homes. Additionally, the freeway would be built about 450 feet from the northern border of the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, impacting wildlife.
“(It) seemed that the worst possible scenario was being manipulated (by UDOT) to appear as though it was the ‘best,’ and even the ‘only’ scenario for a supposed much-needed high-speed freeway,” Kalt said.
UDOT’s planned route was not the result of a deliberative environmental impact study, but instead, Kalt said, “the result of a pre-determination of a preferred alignment and alternative” and the “review effort and conclusions were reverse-engineered to support that preconceived result.”
“Basically, UDOT knew where they wanted to build this freeway and they set about making that happen,” she said.
“We’re aware of Farmington city’s concerns and we will continue to work with them throughout this process,” UDOT spokesman John Gleason told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
In an April 27, 2012 letter, UDOT representatives asked Farmington officials to identify property the city considered protected under Section 4(f) of the Federal Transportation Act, which protects public parks, recreation areas, trails, wildlife refuges and historic sites from condemnation and construction for federal highway projects.
In response, Farmington submitted a letter to UDOT dated May 11, 2012, identifying public conservation easements owned by the city, that protected public recreation areas, public trail system, neighboring uplands, and wetlands from residential or commercial development, according to city records.
The city also created the easements to help protect the Farmington Bay Wildlife Management Area from encroaching development.
Despite the city’s notice of the federal law protections that apply to the city’s public recreation areas and conservation easements, UDOT last May released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement that selected the freeway route through the protected areas.
In response, Farmington has filed a formal comment objecting to the DEIS, followed by two letters requesting UDOT reconsider its plan and conduct a supplemental DEIS.
UDOT’s final EIS is scheduled to be released this summer. That document will specify UDOT’s preferred freeway route to the Federal Highway Administration.
Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.