Davis buys up road corridor land for $6.4M

Tuesday , June 10, 2014 - 4:03 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

FARMINGTON — A $6.4 million purchase of 111 acres of vacant property in the proposed West Davis Corridor alignment was approved by the Davis County Commission on Tuesday as the project manager for the four-lane state highway looked on.

The proposed north-south $587 million West Davis Corridor is to stretch from Farmington to West Haven in Weber County in an effort to alleviate Interstate 15 traffic.

The transaction, made possible from revenues generated from the $10 licensing fee charged to motorists, may well be the largest land purchase the commission has ever approved, Commissioner John Petroff Jr. said.

With the county having a population of about 320,000 residents, the license fee generates about $250,000 each month for the preservation fund, Petroff said.

Rather than let the funds sit in an account and draw little interest, the Davis County Council of Governments recommended in May that some of the dollars be spent on preservation buys for the road corridor before property values increase, Petroff said. The county’s preservation fund still has $4 million available even after Tuesday’s decision.

The county is paying about $58,000 per acre for the land, which stretches from Farmington to West Point, County Property Manager Tony Thompson said.

All of the properties purchased on Tuesday sit vacant, with property sales expected to be finalized by the end of the month, Petroff said.

The Environmental Impact Statement on the roadway project is expected to be complete at the end of this year.

Most of the property purchased with the preservation funds is where there is no question in the alignment of the West Davis Corridor, Commissioner Louenda Downs said.

"There has been a lot of planning, a lot of planning, that has gone into this,“ Downs said.

West Davis Corridor project manager Randy Jefferies said the Utah Department of Transportation very much supports Davis County’s corridor preservation plan.

”This is a program that we use statewide,“ Jefferies said of similar county preservation plans.

The intent behind the program is to keep proposed road corridors free of homes in preventing homeowners from having to be displaced, as well in the long run to save the taxpayers money, Jefferies said.

Any property acquired but not used later for road construction will be resold, he said.

About two weeks ago Farmington City officials raised concerns that COG, through its use of the preservation funds, was encroaching on conservation easements the city has established within its borders along the shore of the Great Salt Lake.

In a May 13 letter to Jefferies, Farmington Mayor Jim Talbot alleged the state is trying to ”navigate around“ an EIS process by buying up land in the Buffalo Ranch area.

UDOT officials have responded to those claims, saying its actions are in accordance with all state and federal laws.

Thompson said none of the properties approved for purchase by the commission on Tuesday involve Farmington conservation easement property.

”The property they are upset about is not being considered,“ Thompson said.

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or bsaxton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.

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