As Spanish Fork has spent the past year and a half studying options for approximately 1,000 acres known as the Riverbottoms, it’s come up with a few scenarios for what the future of the Riverbottoms will look like.

Extensive public feedback was gathered throughout the process, with most feedback from two strongly opposed sides: those who want the area preserved for its traditionally agricultural uses, and those who have land they would like to develop.

“How do you balance the two voices that are so opposite of each other?” asked Seth Perrins, city administrator for the city of Spanish Fork, in a Facebook Live video May 14.

Perrins later told the city council during a presentation last week that the overwhelming sentiment from Spanish Fork residents has been to preserve the area. Landowners are split. Some bought land specifically for development, and want to move forward. Others have farmed there for generations and don’t want development near them.

Right now, each home in the Riverbottoms is set on multiple acres. The land is technically zoned in Utah County, though it’s anticipated to be eventually annexed into Spanish Fork city boundaries.

The city has released three possible development scenarios for the area on its website, and is hoping one of them will be an acceptable compromise between the opposing views on what the area’s future should be.

The first scenario presented would allow for development, but only in certain areas that fall outside the 100-year floodplain — meaning nothing would be developed close to the river. It would also set up a Transferrable Development Rights (TDR) program so that development rights could be transferred from the 100-year floodplain areas to other portions of the Riverbottoms.

The second scenario is similar to the first, except that development would not be allowed near Main Street to preserve views.

The third scenario allows for the most preservation of agricultural land in the area. This plan, also, would allow development rights to be transferred, but has those development rights being transferred out of the Riverbottoms entirely and into other parts of the city.

While some neighboring cities, including Mapleton, use TDRs, the concept is new to Spanish Fork. It would allow people who own land close to the river to still be able to monetize their development rights without necessarily developing in the Riverbottoms.

“This may be great for a farmer that wants to sell away the development rights, and keep farming,” Perrins told the council. “But they were able to at least realize some increase because of selling that development away.”

Perrins told the council that other options not included in the presented scenarios would include buying the Riverbottoms, which would cost $40 to $60 million, or simply not annexing the area and leaving it to the county.

The city doesn’t have the money to buy it outright, Perrins said, but if the community wants to preserve the area badly enough that it would be willing to bond for it, that could be a scenario for the council to add to consideration.

Though scenarios have been presented, Perrins said there is still a lot of work to be done before anything would come to fruition. He suggested the council get more public feedback, possibly through a public meeting or survey. Ordinances would have to be developed to iron out and implement details about a TDR program, no matter which scenario was selected.

Mayor Steve Leifson said he and the council should get public feedback, then come back to discuss which options they’re comfortable with based on that feedback.

“We only get one shot at getting this right,” Leifson said. “I’m glad we’re taking the time and effort.”

Katie England covers local government, the environment and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

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