Tempers flare at Lehi City Council work session Tuesday

The Peck family meets on Dec. 6, 2006, with Lehi City Council members and city staff for a tour of the future Peck Park. In the foreground is former Councilman Johnny Barnes with former Mayor Howard Johnson. To the right is the Peck family. The park has been surrounded by controversy since 2005 and remains a source of contention. (Cathy Allred, Daily Herald)

After two hours of discussion, the Lehi City Planning Commission made a positive recommendation for a concept plan to move forward at 1800 N. 300 East, otherwise known as Peck Park.

The recommendation will be put on the City Council’s agenda in the coming months.

On Thursday, July 11, the planning commission continued its discussion over two proposed park concepts after tabling the discussion in June. The commission needed to choose one concept to recommend to the Lehi City Council, which will then vote on the plan later this year.

The approved concept covers roughly 72 acres and would designate the park as a public facility to provide eight soccer fields owned by Arsenal Soccer Club. The agreement, which was signed by the City Council on Dec. 11, 2018, would last 10 years, at which point the city would have the option to reclaim the land.

Since the Peck family sold this land to the city in 2005, controversy has followed the development and concerns from the public continued at Thursday’s meeting.

Peck Park moves forward

The Planning Commission recommended that the City Council look closer into the safety issues, parking issues and traffic concerns that were brought up by the community. The commission also recommended that the council look into a long-term plan to move the soccer fields to the opposite end of the land.

Other items brought up for consideration included fencing, restrooms, sidewalks and an alternate proposal brought up by Cole Peck, a member of the Peck family, to sell an additional 17 acres of land to the city in exchange for cooperation with their wishes.

“My dad made the agreement and it’s really been frustrating,” Peck said. “There’s so much potential in this park. I just want to make it work. Lehi City has to be held accountable and we have to do things right. We can’t impact the people who live there.”

Peck told the overflowing room of people that he believes “people who leave legacies for others make sacrifices” and that his dad made a sacrifice he expects the city to honor.

Although the public hearing had been closed for this item, the Commission allowed for public comment because the concept plans they were discussing had changed from the month before.

“We have the land now, but we don’t have the money to build anything, so we have to get creative,” said Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson.

The Mayor explained that Lehi would ask Arsenal to use grant money to build irrigation and maintain the soccer fields.

“We get 30% of the land in use and they get 70%,” Johnson said. “The advantage is we have green space that we can use when needed.”

Arsenal would only develop 20 acres as grass now, but Johnson said Lehi City wants to continue to develop every year. According to two surveys that were sent out to residents, a consensus showed that the community was in favor of a leisure park.

“It’s the hardest thing to fund because it doesn’t generate any revenue, but we are going to do the best we can,” Johnson said. “There will be no lighting or speakers. The park will be shut down at night. It will be an asphalt parking lot that allows us to stripe it if we need to.”

Johnson said that Lehi City has no intention of putting in sidewalks or restrooms, but those accommodations may be made in the future.

“I’m going to tell you, we’re going cheap,” Johnson said. “When citizens turned down the RAP tax, they sent a very clear message that they want us to go cheap and that’s OK, we’ll go cheap.”

Community concerns

“The original agreement has always been to build a park, but it was never specified what kind of park,” said Ryan Wood, city attorney. “There is no legal obligation to put anything in terms of facilities into the park.”

Wood said Arsenal Soccer Club would take care of the restrooms until permanent ones were installed and there would be no need for security because “with the neighborhood around, there’s an element of self-policing.”

Dave Christofferson, a resident of Lehi, said that in the last 45 years, he has seen plans come and go.

“I’m concerned with the parking,” Christofferson said. “There’s potential for 1,500 cars at any time. We don’t mind what the city does with that property. Sure, we have our opinions, but it’s not our property. We just want parking and infrastructure to be addressed.”

Commission member Abram Nielsen said that he believed “something is better than nothing.”

“Grass is the easiest thing in the world to redevelop,” Nielsen said. “In 10 years if the cities decide to vote that parks are important to them, we can redevelop. It seems like this has been mostly an issue of baseball versus soccer.”

However, Nielsen said he was conflicted.

“It’s 15 years later, why rush now to get something in?” Nielsen said. “I see the benefit of having someone willing to invest in the city. It should have a master plan in place, so we are working towards a means to an end.”

This was one of the recommendations made to the City Council as the plan for Peck Park moves forward.

“Parking is a great concern of mine,” said commission member Jared Petersen. “I know this is temporary, but it has the potential to be a 15-year deal. That doesn’t seem temporary to me.”

Commission member Roger Ellis said the he thinks the city did put up a “very thorough and thought-out plan for parks.”

“We put it in front of the public and the public said they don’t want to pay for it,” Ellis said.

Behind the 15-year controversy

After the motion to recommend changes to the plan was passed, during a short recess, a representative from Alder Soccer Clubs walked over to Cole Peck and shook his hand.

“I’d love to meet with you, too,” Peck said ensuring there is more cooperation and discussion to come between now and when Peck Park is inevitably built.

The Peck family advocated Thursday for baseball fields to be built on the land and for private entities to be kept out of the deal. Peck even offered to sell his 17 acres of land directly to Arsenal Soccer Club in exchange for them moving their fields.

Former Mayor Ken Greenwood was present and sided with the Peck family. Greenwood served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2006 and in an email to Mayor Johnson, then a city councilmember, he said that Peck Park was not envisioned as solely as sports park, but that was a large part of its use.

“I saw the [deal we made with Pecks] as a benefit to the city and to the Pecks,” Greenwood wrote. “It breaks my heart to feel the rancor all the way in Africa that seems to have replaced the great feeling over the wonderful opportunity to benefit all parties for generations to come. I feel I need to remind everyone that the Pecks did not have to sell the property to the city – it was just under contract to Ivory Homes. It was not an easy task to pull that out of the fire. Their family will take many years to heal these wounds caused because they worked with the city.”

Multiple members of the Peck family said that they were hurt and frustrated by Lehi City.

“When this deal was made, my father shook hands with Mayor Greenwood,” Peck said. “We didn’t care how long it takes for this park to be built, only that it is built the way we agreed upon.”