FARMINGTON — Сounty officials are again under fire for purchasing land in advance of any final decision on the West Davis Corridor.
The money used for the land purchases in question comes from the $10 fee tacked onto yearly motor vehicle assessments. That money, collected since 2007, goes to a corridor preservation fund managed by Davis County and the Utah Department of Transportation.
However, much of the land already purchased won’t be used for the road at all.
“It’s just sloppy and reckless planning,” said anti-freeway activist Todd Jenson, of Farmington. “That’s an example of horrible waste. It should be an embarrassment.”
Concerns have been simmering since at least 2011, when the county learned that it had purchased protected wetlands with the fund. The issue came up again when UDOT released its draft plan for the road’s course in May.
Nevertheless, officials in charge of spending the money defend their actions.
The alternative route recommended in UDOT’s plan would use about half of the land already purchased, said West Davis Corridor project manager Randy Jefferies.The rest of the land could be resold.
“We are looking at ways to use those properties, whether for detention ponds or mitigation or preservation of wetland,” Jefferies said.
In the future, the corridor preservation money will be used to buy property before eminent domain is required or to preserve properties where development would otherwise occur, he said.
“The last thing the county or state wants is a corridor that has brand new development that would be impacted by the new corridor,” Jefferies said. Once a final decision is made, property acquisition will begin as funds become available.
County commissioners said that the spending so far doesn’t amount to waste.
Unused land could be sold for another kind of development, said County Commission Chair John Petroff said.
“That money will come back,” he said.
County Commissioner Bret Millburn wants to protect open land.
“If you have raw ground, it is much more feasible and cost efficient” to purchase, he said.
“We don’t anticipate any real loss of money,” he said. “We anticipate most will go back to the corridor.”
No funding has been appropriated for the actual road construction and a final decision on the alignment isn’t due until next spring.
Its impact will be felt in communities from Farmington to Syracuse, and that has raised the ire of some property owners. However, documents about the UDOT plan say the proposed alternative negatively impacts fewer property owners, including farmers, and has less impact on wetlands and natural habitat.
The $10 collection per car averages about $2 million in Davis County per year. Those funds are held in a corridor preservation fund by UDOT, and the Davis County Council of Governments allocates funds for corridor highway land purchases. Some has been used to buy property for the east-west State Road 193 expansion in Clearfield and West Point.
More than $5 million is available in Davis County’s corridor fund share, Petroff said.
“Several million dollars, with an equal state match, has been spent” to purchase corridor land, said County Economic Development Director Kent Sulser.
Proceeds from any land not needed and sold would be returned to the county, he said.