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Wasatch County creates first North Fields agriculture protection area

A property on the western edge of the Heber Valley North Fields became Wasatch County's first agriculture protection area this week.
Wasatch County
A property on the western edge of the Heber Valley North Fields became Wasatch County's first agriculture protection area this week.

A Heber Valley farm property gained new protections this week under a county ordinance.

A 25-acre parcel on the western side of the North Fields near Midway became Wasatch County’s first agriculture protection area.

A representative of owners Troy and Rebecca Black said they were away on a mission trip Wednesday. But with the county council’s unanimous approval at the meeting that evening, the Blacks will have extra protections backed by the county to help guard against nuisance lawsuits related to their land.

The decision also granted extra protections against eminent domain related to local government.

Wasatch County senior planner Nathan Rosvall told the council the property met the requirements outlined for the protections under an ordinance the council passed in December.

During a public hearing, Heber City Mayor Heidi Franco commended the county for creating the option for North Fields farmers.

“I can’t thank the county enough for really doing this as efficiently and quickly as you have, and then being able to roll this out so soon,” she said. “That's just amazing. I can't thank you enough, and I really look forward to the county preserving even more in the North Fields.”

Land in the Heber Valley North Fields pastures is eligible for county protections, amid a study by the Utah Department of Transportation to build a road through the space. The county council will discuss those options for protections Wednesday.
Ben Lasseter
Wasatch County offers protections for farming lands in the North Fields, an area that includes thousands of acres of open space northwest of Heber City.

Council members have said one reason for agriculture protection areas is to give owners options in case the state decides to build a highway bypass through their lands. But there's no precedent for whether the county ordinance could supersede a UDOT effort to condemn land. That means if the state seeks to claim land and use it for the road without the property owner’s approval, it could lead to a legal dispute.

The Black property is on the western perimeter of the North Fields, far from any land identified in the proposals the Utah Department of Transportation says it’s considering.

According to county staff, as of last week, two other property owners had applied for agricultural protections.

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