Ogden Nature Center to remain a nature preserve

Summer camp students cross through the grasslands at the Ogden Nature Center on Monday, July 17, 2017. At the request of Ogden City administrators, Congressman Rob Bishop amended a bill to remove the former DDO property's recreational restriction. On Monday he rescinded that amendment.

Mayor Mike Caldwell decided he didn’t need the public’s involvement, or want it.

He intended to make a play for a new jobs, even if he had to strike a deal changing the character of the Ogden Nature Center. Even if he had to do it alone.

And the scary part is, he almost got away with it.

  • RELATED: “Attempt to change land status of Ogden Nature Center, Fairgrounds rouses ire”

Caldwell’s misguided attempt to recruit Stadler Rail AG shows why we must insist on open, representative government.

Stadler builds rail cars. Caldwell said the company approached him around June 6 to see if Ogden wished to compete for a light manufacturing plant in Northern Utah.

  • RELATED: “Stadler eyeing Clearfield and other Utah sites for train manufacturing plant”

He considered it a perfect extension of Business Depot Ogden. Just one catch — federal restrictions protected the city land he wanted to use west of the BDO.

When the city obtained the depot, the federal government specified that the land now occupied by the Ogden Nature Center must be preserved as a public park for recreation, and Ogden zoned the property as open space.

No problem. Caldwell simply asked a lobbyist to meet with U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-1st District, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Bishop, at Caldwell’s behest, added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act removing the deed restrictions on land west of the BDO.

The House approved the $696 billion bill Friday, sending it to the Senate for approval.

Within hours, Caldwell’s plan blew up on social media. People worried Caldwell and Bishop intended to displace the Nature Center, as well as the nearby Golden Spike Events Center.

Caldwell’s response?

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” he blithley told Cathy McKitrick, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner, in a Monday interview.

In a statement Sunday night, the Ogden City Council said it wasn’t “consulted or involved” when Caldwell asked Bishop for help on the deed restrictions.

“We are continuing to develop information regarding how this issue developed, the council said on its Facebook page.

The Weber County Commission issued a statement Monday that the Golden Spike Event Center “is NOT closing!” But the clincher came when Bishop, suggesting he’d been misled, pulled his amendment from the defense bill.

Ogden’s lobbyist approached Bishop “with an opportunity, they said, of bringing a significant number of jobs into the BDO. To do that would require some land expansions . . . so we agreed to assist them,” Bishop told McKitrick.

Bishop said he assumed the initiative had been vetted and the community approved — including the Nature Center. When he found out otherwise, he withdrew his amendment.

“We thought it was a unique opportunity for underutilized land,” Caldwell said. “So we contacted Rob Bishop’s office and were kicking the tires to see what it meant. We had no intent to do anything with the Nature Center.”

Let’s be clear — a six-week plan that includes lobbying a U.S. representative to amend a massive defense spending bill while carefully hiding it from the city council, the county commission and the public isn’t kicking the tires; it’s taking government into your own hands.

Ogden became one of the hottest small cities in the United States because its leaders not only showed vision, but because they understood the value of community. No single politician, no single philanthropist, no single entrepreneur built Ogden. The people who live here built it. All of them. They decided what kind of community they wanted to be, and they created it.

Together.

Pushing light manufacturing out to the edges of the Ogden Nature Center would change its character, as the public immediately understood. Caldwell didn’t care.

As a result, he marginalized the city council. He embarrassed a valuable ally in the House. And worst of all, he alienated the community.

Now the community needs to hold him accountable.

(8) comments

batteredpilot

I would be really impressed if Lance Caldwell did all this. First sign of life to date. No, he was just sitting on the handlebars of Tommy Christomegaopoulis' Schwinn. Time for the city council and the county commissioners to stop sitting on the side of the road waiting for the bike parade and start looking under some other non-transparent rocks. 

OgdenBicker

Thank God Rob Bishop had the good sense to withdraw his amendment which would have allowed this project to go through.  I drive 12TH ST to and from work five days a week, and allowing Stadler Rail to move into the area presently occupied by the Nature Center and the Golden Spike Event Center would have created even more traffic congestion in the area.  The traffic on 12TH ST is already bumper to bumper weekdays between 8 AM-6 PM with the IRS main building, BDO, and Intermountain Farmers all located within a few hundred feet of one another.  Throw in the frequent traffic back-ups on 12TH ST caused by Union Pacific blocking the road with train traffic several times a day, and a rail car manufacturing plant would have created near gridlock conditions.  Find someplace else in Ogden for Stadler Rail to build its facility--the traffic on 12TH ST is bad enough!

By the way, how about Mayor Mikey and the Ogden City Council giving us an update on when (or if) the new health care facility is going to be built on the former Fred Meyer site?  It's been nearly a year since the store was torn down, and I've yet to see any signs of construction on my daily drives to and from work! 

Sabbatical

Bill, I agree. Mark Benigni (Weber Pathways) or Jeff Stuart (Retired Military, Weber State Professor)...both men would be an excellent choice for Mayor of Ogden.Mack

Sabbatical

Bill..Best post For Forever about Biking Mike...BravoMack

mikem1

The Mayor's recent actions are a prime example of exactly what's wrong with government. The last thing we need in Ogden is a government official who believes that the ends justify the means, or that conducting city business in a unilateral fashion is beneficial to anyone but himself. Pleas don't seek reelection Mayor Caldwell!

1960ford

Over a year ago, I took the Mayor and Council to task over the development of property adjacent to the Ogden Nature Center.  In a prior action, when the area was rezoned, we were told that the Center would be preserved.  Instead they placed a building and all its paving and lighting right along the fence line. I presented to the council a DVD of “FernGully” explaining that the movie told the story of an evil entity hell bend on destroying a beautiful woodland paradise.  I also included a t-shirt for the Mayor imprinted with what I believed to be the City’s 30-year mantra:“In Ogden City, the lie has become not just a moral category, but a pillar of City Government”.  Apparently, the movie has become the Mayor’s playbook and the mantra appears to be City business as usual.

robertbecker

Presuming, for the sake of discussion, thst it all played out exactly as Hizzonah, The Mayor, says it did, a major conclusion appears to be this:  the Mayor's go-it-alone approach  bungled the Stadler bid, big time.

bill0

I guess it's time for Biking Mike to pedal on down the the road.

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