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WOODS CROSS IS CLOSER TO AUTO-YARD DEAL

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The city is a step closer to settling an eight-year dispute with the owner of an auto-wrecking yard.

Officials completed environmental testing on the seven-acre yard last week and think cleanup will cost about $50,000. "Had it been a lot more, the deal would have been off," said City Manager Gary Uresk.Leaders have proposed paying about $700,000 to move the yard to the city's western boundary.

The money would compensate owner Frank Branch for the land on which his South Bountiful Auto sits, pay for cleaning the yard of oil-related contamination and build Branch a new site at an undisclosed location.

Officials are still negotiating with a landowner but hope to close the deal before the end of summer. If the parties agree, the yard will move within a year, Uresk said.

The contamination is mostly concentrated around the yard's storage building. Some is scattered throughout the site.

"It's stuff you'd see in crank cases, like oil," Uresk said.

In exchange for the seven acres, situated downtown and surrounded by homes, Branch will get the new yard and a cash settlement that hasn't been determined but will probably hover around $200,000.

The rest of the $700,000 will be used for cleaning up the site, buying several acres for the new yard, fencing, landscaping and paving of a road to it, and extending utility lines for a small office.

Several generations of city councils have tried to get the yard moved out of downtown, using every legal trick they could find. But Branch survived the volleys and even stalled eminent-domain proceedings in 2nd District Court.

Uresk said the proceedings will be dropped if the deal is closed.

The city expects to recoup most of its costs to move the yard. About $250,000 of the cost will come from federal grants.

"Over 10 years, with the sale of the seven acres and tax increment from any homes, this will cost the city less than $50,000," he said.