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Spanish Fork residents appeal Del Monte rezoning approved by city

By Connor Richards daily Herald - | May 10, 2021

Dozens of Spanish Fork residents are appealing the Spanish Fork City Council’s decision to rezone property to make way for high-density housing and claim that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

In September 2020, the Spanish Fork City Council voted 3-2 to change the property at 800 W. Del Monte Road from industrial to residential zoning in order to make way for the Del Monte Townhomes development, a project by Arive Homes that would consist of 54 townhomes.

Multiple residents spoke against the development, citing safety concerns and a possible conflict of interest between the Arive Homes co-owner Dean Ingram and Councilmember Mike Mendenhall, who disclosed on Sept. 1 that Ingram “has been a client of mine in the financial world for 15 years” and voted in favor of the zone change.

Just two weeks later, the city council voted to rescind the zone change ordinance and then reapproved it after Mendenhall recused himself from voting. Mayor Steve Leifson was the tie-breaking vote.

On Sept. 30, Spanish Fork residents Nathan Goff and Jason Rasmussen, as well as 10 “Jane Doe” appellants, filed an appeal in Fourth District Court and argued that “the decision made by the City Council lacks adequate factual basis to support the decision” and “the vote to allow high density by the other city council members is arbitrary and capricious in light of the unaddressed safety issues presented to the city council.”

In a motion for summary judgment, the appellants claim that the city “has not even required the Developer to provide an updated traffic study that would demonstrate the impact that a large, multi-family dwelling would have on the already underperforming intersections.”

“Instead, the City ignored the traffic flow requirement and failed to ask critical questions regarding traffic flow,” they wrote. “Neither the City nor the Developer provided any evidence of traffic flow, how emergency vehicles would access the development, or how the proposed development would impact the existing residents in the instance of an emergency.”

The appellants further argued that “the Mayor’s deciding vote was made, not on the evidence of the health and safety of its citizenry, but in retaliation to concerned citizens standing up to a preferred developer building a project that is inappropriate for the area and unsafe.”

During a city council meeting on Sept. 15, Spanish Fork resident Tyler Bolyard claimed that Leifson told him in a private conversation that he wouldn’t side with the residents who opposed the project because he felt like they singled out Mendenhall and Mendenhall’s “livelihood was gone after.”

Leifson interrupted Bolyard and denied saying that he was voting in favor of the project because residents had gone after Mendenhall.

“There is no evidence on the record that anyone has ‘gone after’ anyone’s livelihood,” the appellants wrote. “Indeed, one would expect any allegations of ‘pay-to-play’ of conflict would be independently investigated by the City. Instead, the Mayor’s statements seem to support the conclusion that he voted to approve the Development to spite the citizens whom he has referred to as a ‘mob’ for standing up against a proposed development. This is not substantial evidence and is therefore arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, this Court should overturn the City’s decision and reject the development.”

Both the appellants and Spanish Fork City made arguments before Judge Kraig Powell on March 12.

In an interview on Monday, Rasmussen told the Daily Herald that 32 residents had signed on to the appeal with declarations stating that they are “concerned about the propriety of the City Council’s decision” and “concerned that the City Council failed to address the health and safety concerns and instead simply referred to the concerned citizens as a mob.”

“So we’re just kind of frustrated as a city that the mayor and the city councilmembers are just kind of doing whatever they want and there’s no real checks and balances for them,” Rasmussen said.

Nick Porter, spokesperson for Spanish Fork, said on Monday that the city did not have any comment on the appeal.


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