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WILL HAUNTING PLEA GIVE HOME AT LEAST A GHOST OF A CHANCE?

Pearl Meibos is serious about protecting her family's home from a proposed strip mall - even to the point of summoning threats from beyond the grave.

"If you do this," she told Salt Lake County commissioners considering a move that would lead to construction of the mall, "my grandmother who died a year and a half ago will haunt you every day of your life."Meibos and many other residents of the Union area, between 900 and 1300 East at about 7200 South, tried Monday to persuade commissioners to preserve an area that was one of the first settled in the Salt Lake Valley.

Among the buildings to be destroyed if the county approves the shopping center is an adobe house built by Jehu Cox in 1849 - a rare example of early pioneer construction using primitive methods.

But representatives of developer Hermes & Associates, which included Democratic gubernatorial candidate Patrick Shea, said none of the residents or concerned citizens has tried to save or restore the history of the area. The Cox house stands empty, and several other houses in the area are blighted, they said. Hermes plans a plaque or monument of some kind to remember what once was on the site.

Their development, meanwhile, will be a 160,000-square-foot expansion of the Family Center shopping complex, with the potential for 300,000 square feet that would cover much of the area with asphalt and concrete.

County commissioners listened to more than two hours of testimony from residents, historians and Hermes officials Monday. Additional written comments and information may be submitted to the county through Thursday.Commissioners will decide next Monday whether to change the master plan for the area to allow commercial development near 1035 East and North Union Avenue.

The county's Planning Commission voted last month to change the master plan, but the County Commission will have final say.

Shea described the area as a haven for transients, where police have responded to 250 emergency calls during the past two years and where evidence of satanic cults has been found.

"If we do not move in a timely manner on this, the people who want to locate retail outlets here will go elsewhere," he said.

Members of the Union Community Council, which advises the county on neighborhood matters, suggested the county build a park in the area, preserving the houses and pushing the strip mall to a different location.

Residents and others, including two direct descendants of Cox, described homes and land owned by family members for generations.

"This is our family center, and it's extremely important to us," Meibos said. "We don't want it turned into a parking lot, it's as simple as that."

But not all residents opposed the shopping center. Reid Boggess, who lives on 10 acres in the area, said he wants the Cox house to remain as an historical museum in the middle of the new development.

"I would like to see construction of a new downtown for the county here," he said. "I like to see progress."