FARMINGTON -- T.J. Jensen realizes he is walking a fine line, being both a member of the Syracuse Planning Commission and a farmer with land in the path of all three advanced West Davis Corridor alignments.
But based on what is at stake, Jensen said, as a landowner being affected by the three alignments the Utah Department of Transportation has advanced, he sensed there was a need to get his personal opinion on record -- somewhere, with someone.
That is why Jensen appeared at the Feb. 15 Davis County Commission meeting as a surprise guest.
There, Jensen asked for the commission's help in hopes of persuading UDOT officials to perform further studies before settling on an alignment.
"We need you to be our voice," Jensen told commission members, whose charge is to oversee the unincorporated county area.
Not only do the alignments take 100 acres of farmland, Jensen said, but they affect 800 more acres of farm ground along that stretch through Syracuse.
The plea from the 45-year-old Jensen, whose family owns 200 acres of farmland south of Gentile Street between 2000 West and 2500 West, seemed to gain traction with commission members.
But Jensen stressed he did not address the county commission as a Syracuse Planning Commission member, but rather as a Syracuse resident who owns property in the unincorporated area of the county.
Syracuse leaders, including the planning commission, will meet in the next few weeks to formalize an official city position on the three alignments advanced by UDOT, Mayor Jamie Nagle said.
Nagle said Jensen made it clear to city officials that he has a financial interest at stake with this project and recused himself from making a recommendation to the city council.
Regarding Jensen's approaching the commission, Nagle said as a landowner he has the right to voice his concerns.
The proposed road alignment, Jensen said, is based on "bad science," and an environmental impact study needs to be done before a decision is made regarding where to place the north leg of the Legacy Parkway.
Although that may push project costs higher, Jensen said, UDOT officials need to do their due diligence before making a decision as to where the road should go.
"We welcome everybody's comments," West Davis Corridor Project Manager Randy Jefferies said upon being contacted about Jensen's claims.
There are still two more years in this process, and comments shared with UDOT officials will be taken into consideration; the state has the ability to redefine those alignments presented.
"The study is far from complete," UDOT Public Information Officer Vic Saunders said.
Saunders said the state advanced the three alignments to make them available for public input, which is occurring.
UDOT has received more than 3,000 public comments on the West Davis Corridor project, officials said.
Turning farms into freeway is not the legacy that this generation should be passing onto its children, said a frustrated Jensen, who has attended the open houses the state recently hosted to reveal its routes.
What shocks him, Jensen said, is that UDOT has abandoned a preferred alignment city and county officials long ago established for the route, and the state is now "marching to their own drum."
One county commissioner quick to praise Jensen's articulate comments was John Petroff Jr., who recommended Jensen write his comments down and make certain they reach state officials.
Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said she shares many of Jensen's concerns, where the county over the years has made an investment in creating an alignment for the corridor by acquiring land for it.
Beginning in May 2008 the county began purchasing land along a route in western Davis County that was identified in a 2001 study by the Wasatch Front Regional Council as the preferred alternative for the extension of Legacy Parkway.
The properties encompass about 85 acres along western Davis County from Kaysville to West Point.
Downs said she fears the county is losing all of its farm land, along with the rural flavor the county at one time was known for.
"We're losing that (farm) ground so fast," Downs said. "This chews them right up. We have almost nothing left."