Midway City Council authorized the use of one million dollars to preserve 82 acres of open space in the city Tuesday evening. The owner of the land said they’d like the city to keep the money to improve the land.
Midway homeowner Kem C Gardner is placing conservation easements on two of his properties in Midway. One is 45 acres on the southern end of Midway, in the northeast quadrant of where Center street and the railroad track meet. That conservation easement will be a donation to Midway. The other is 37 acres located on the west side of the city just north of the Midway City Cemetery, the agreed purchase price for the easement is three million dollars.
Utah Open Lands will hold the conservation easement on the two properties, Executive Director Wendy Fisher explains the value that Midway will receive for using their open space bond monies on this project.
“We are working through the appraisal process on this, but we know from the fee title value of both of these properties that the leveraging that is being accomplished by the $1,000,000 request of Midway is substantial,” Fisher continued. “Probably six maybe seven times of the value that conservation easement will eventually come in at. As we’ve discussed before it doesn't even begin to touch that fair market development value that a piece of property could be sold for.”
Fisher mentioned some of the uses the public will have on the land.
“There is going to be some significant opportunity on one of the parcels for public access and public use,” Fisher explained. “On the other parcel, provided there is respectful use and we all have to be just incredibly good stewards of landscapes that are open space, there's an opportunity for some hiking and walking trail use on that other property as well.”
Kem Gardner is a prominent real estate developer in his own right, and has also aided the Utah Symphony, Salt Lake Airport and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. His name also adorns the policy institute at the University of Utah.
Gardner said he’s had a home in Midway since the 70’s and he’s been bothered watching the rural character of the community change. He said he’s received offers from developers hoping to buy his land.
“Then I thought well wait a minute I haven't developed it all these years.,” Gardner said “I don’t want it developed so why should I let somebody else? So, I talked to Wendy and thought maybe you can help me buy this. But I bought it and I really would like to take the $1,000,000 and give it back to the city.”
“Oh, I’d like you to do that too.” Mayor Johnson said
“And I would really would do it, to have you use it to help down here in doing some things,” Gardner continued. “For example, you could put in a monument. You could put in a soccer field or some picnic tables, park around the stream. There’s things that you could do that would beautify and make this a nice place. I don't want to just take city money without giving something back.”
He clarified that he wants the million dollars used on beautification whether the city uses it or he does himself. He says there’s another 40 acres that he’s planning to put a conservation easement on as well.
“If I could put 130 acres in Midway under conservation easement that would be a great legacy for me,” Gardner said. “I’ve got my name on buildings, that doesn't mean anything. I'd rather have open land, particularly in Midway.”
The two conservations will also prevent at least 87 units of density being added to the city. The council voted unanimously to approve the allocation of $1,000,000 of the City’s Open Space Bond monies to the easement, and immediately after unanimously approved a motion to use that same money donated back to making improvements on the two properties.