New trail in Ogden Valley catches ire of property owners

Oct 8 2013 - 7:06pm

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Proposed trail in Patio Springs Community in Eden
Proposed trail in Patio Springs Community in Eden

OGDEN -- A proposed 1-mile trail around the perimeter of an 18-acre land trust brushing up against an Ogden Valley residential development has created a NIMBY -- "not in my backyard" -- situation so unique, it has drawn into the fray the Weber County Commission, which has already indicated it does not want to play referee.

Residents of the Patio Springs Community in Eden and operators of Ogden Valley Land Trust, a private nonprofit organization, met with Weber County Commissioners Jan M. Zogmaister and Matthew G. Bell for a 75-minute informal gripe session Monday.

At the meeting, land trust operators and neighbors were given ample time to state their positions regarding the trail, which is now in its early stages of development.

Residents hoped Monday's meeting would delay work on the trail.

The only stake Weber County had in the fight was previously awarding $9,800 in matching RAMP tax funds toward the development of the 8-foot-wide trail.

RAMP funds come from a tax approved by Weber County voters in 2004 that allows the county to impose a local sales tax of one-tenth of 1 percent, which is 1 cent on a $10 sale, to improve recreation, arts, museums and parks.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, the Ogden Valley Land Trust group has opted to return those RAMP funds to the county and build the trail using other donations, said Zane Froerer, legal counsel for the land trust.

"They decided to avoid conflicts involving Weber County," Froerer said.

The decision by the land trust group likely appeases county officials.

"We didn't come to referee," Zogmaister told the two sides that gathered in the commission chambers Monday.

About 60 people attended the meeting, most of them -- based on applause -- leaning heavily against having the trail developed.

What complicates the disagreement is that several of the homeowners adjacent to where the trail is being developed have, over the years, encroached on the OVLT property by extending their backyards onto it, including building some fire pits and sheds.

But OVLT officials assure that no sheds will be torn down to put in the trail.

"In the past year alone, we have had five new encroachments," said OVLT Chairwoman Jody Smith.

Overseers of the land are hoping the trail will prevent any future encroachment onto the pristine land.

"We need to maintain the integrity of the property," said Smith, who estimates 12 to 15 neighbors are already trespassing by encroaching on their property.

Some of the trespasses, because of the time period in which they occurred, cannot be addressed; however, trespass disputes that have come up in the last three years can be resolved by law, Froerer said.

But residents contend if a trail goes in, fences are likely to be put up by several homeowners, severely limiting the wildlife that currently enjoys the open space.

Resident Ray Bertoldi said the current layout for the land trust trail brings the project to within 50 feet of his daughter's bedroom window.

"In some cases, it will be closer to homes. I don't know of any trail in the county that does that," Bertoldi said, adding that he is an Ogden-area architect.

"To my surprise, I feel this trail does not exemplify many of the very preservation and good planning principles that the land trust make out to support and instill in the public.

"The design of this trail is nothing more than a means to mark territory."

There are also questions about the water table of the land, he said, with portions of the trail likely to be underwater during different times of the year.

"In my opinion, in the spirit of preserving open space and wildlife habitat, this trail design is a failure on a number of levels. A well-designed trail would work with the land, the habitat, wildlife corridors and its surrounding neighbors, much in the way the land trust expects other developers to work with them on developments adjacent to their property."

Resident Tina Young said the trail will invite crime.

"The (trail) parking lot is 70 steps from the (school) bus stop. This (the trailhead parking lot) creates a place for people to watch our children," she said.

But Smith disputes that rationale, saying the parking lots for the trail will be a width of about 60 feet, allowing only two or three vehicles at a time to park there.

In an area where there are few straight property lines and few fences marking land borders, the trail would enhance the community as well as establish a "line of demarcation" between the land trust and neighboring properties, Froerer said.

"Fences make for good neighbors, but in this case, we want it to be open," said Froerer, who views having a bordering trail as a compromise in this particular situation.

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

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