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Public hearing set for new policy to govern Heber Valley agriculture lands

North Fields ag protection.jpg

The public has a chance to weigh in on a measure Wasatch County could take to offer new protections to farmlands.

The Wasatch County Council is considering giving farmers a way to try to fight eminent domain and prevent urbanization on their lands. people can weigh in during a public hearing Wednesday.

A public hearing and vote Wednesday evening are the last steps before the Wasatch County Council may give farmers the chance to gain new protections.

If the council approves, owners of Heber Valley farmlands could apply for protection zones on their land. By paying an administrative fee to the county of $1,000 and $2 per acre, they could potentially bolster their legal defense against development pressures, including nuisance lawsuits, zoning changes and eminent domain. The idea is based on a 1994 state law called the Utah Agriculture Protection Area Act.

The council will vote on a county ordinance that would establish a committee to review the applications. Wasatch County Manager Dustin Grabau would select the committee members.

In recent weeks, council and planning commission members have said preventing development in the North Fields is their main goal with this measure.

Along with local government, many residents have said those pastures between Highway 40 and Midway are integral to the valley’s rural character and should remain undeveloped.

Advisors at the county and state levels said the program could give farmers a strong legal defense in nuisance lawsuits like neighbors complaining about noise or dust from farm operations.

The timing of the proposed ordinance coincides with the Utah Department of Transportation’s plans to build a highway bypass road in the Heber Valley.

Two of UDOT’s designs would build the road through the North Fields. Some residents and Heber City officials have publicly supported those options, saying they are most practical.

The county council meeting begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Wasatch County Administration Building. The public hearing is scheduled to begin after 6 p.m.

The agenda and information about how to attend the meeting via Zoom are available at this link.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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