After over an hour of hearing from residents near the mink farm at 3200 N. 300 West and deliberating, Lehi City Council voted “no” Tuesday to a high-density housing plan by Ivory Development that would replace the mink farm.

The vote was 3-2, with opposing council members mostly focusing on one issue: the justification of retroactively awarding “density bonuses” to Ivory Development in order to build the 65-unit housing plan, possibly setting a precedent.

“I don’t think it’s a good precedent to award density bonuses retroactively,” Councilwoman Paige Albrecht said.

When Ivory Development first began building Ivory Ridge, they were allowed to build to a certain amount of housing density, or a certain number of units. That allowed density is in part based on what amenities the development would provide for residents. For example, Ivory Ridge is home to a “swim and tennis club” which residents can opt to participate in. Originally, Ivory Ridge had planned for five indoor and five outdoor tennis courts, and one large pool.

Instead, Ivory Ridge ended up building six indoor tennis courts and the five outdoor tennis courts, and three pools — a kiddie pool, a large swimming pool and a lap pool. Technically, these additional amenities increased the amount of housing density Ivory Development could build.

Now, 14 years after the initial development of Ivory Ridge was approved, Ivory Development is trying to retroactively use those “density bonuses,” created by the extra amenities, in order to build 65 housing units on what is currently the Dixon Mink Farm. Compared to the surrounding neighborhoods that are not part of Ivory Ridge, it would be a much higher density neighborhood.

Other council members expressed that such a precedent could result in other businesses attempting to make similar developments based on past density bonuses that weren’t maxed out.

“I’m concerned that if some other developer doesn’t max out their density, a couple years later they’re going to come and say, ‘I didn’t max out my density a few years ago and I want to now,’” Councilman Paul Hancock said.

The Dixon Mink Farm has long been the source of its own controversy. The farm has been there for over 30 years, and as people began to move to the area, complaints about the smell emanating from the mink farm and the flies it brought to the area, especially in the summer, began pouring in.

Fourteen years ago, the Dixons weren’t interested in selling to Ivory Development. Then, in 2018, they reached out to Ivory Development about the possibility of selling, citing that the area simply was no longer conducive to their business and they hoped to sell their property and make enough money to move their business somewhere else.

“It’s been frustrating for us to farm there,” Nadine Dixon said.

She said she liked the proposed Ivory Development plan.

“I just think it would go so much better with the community than our farm does,” Dixon said.

They’re also ready to move and stop receiving the negative feedback of their neighbors.

“We run a clean operation and we still get a lot of complaining, and it’s hard,” she said. “Life’s too short for all that pushback.”

Dixon and her family were unsure how to react to the denial of the Ivory Development plan, but remain hopeful Ivory Development will be able to perhaps come up with a different proposal that won’t rely on retroactive density bonuses and pass approval of the council.

“We’ll talk to Ivory and see if we can work something out,” Dixon said.

Several residents who spoke in the meeting said they saw the proposed development as a great solution to the problem of the mink farm — but a majority of those residents also added that they didn’t think the proposed plan was the best possible solution, and had an attitude of acceptance over enthusiasm.

“Is it the ideal plan? No. Is it the plan I would have chosen? No. Will I live with it? Yes,” one resident said.

Brad Mackay, the Ivory Development representative at the council meeting, peppered the council members with several questions after they voted “no” to approving the plan in an effort to understand what modifications would lead to a development plan the council will find more acceptable.

Hancock, Albrecht and Councilman Chris Condie seemed to agree that if a plan was proposed that didn’t rely on retroactive density bonuses, they would have a much easier time approving it — but whether or not Ivory Development will be able to meet those requirements, and offer the Dixons a price that will make moving their mink farm worth the hassle, remains to be seen.

“I really hope we can find a proposal that goes a more traditional route,” Albrecht said.

Carley Porter covers northern Utah County and business for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at cporter@heraldextra.com.

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