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Residents on the south side of a mountain dividing Utah and Salt Lake counties fear proposed urbanization will ruin one of the last open areas on the Wasatch Front.

Placing 4,400 homes on Tra-verse Ridge as Proterra Inc. intends isn't compatible with preserving critical wildlife habitat, aesthetic beauty and psychological relief from urban sprawl, says Highland resident Liz Blackwell.Blackwell organized a meeting Wednesday night to explore ways to halt the massive development between Draper and Alpine. About two-thirds of the 4,200-acre project area lies in Utah County, although Draper annexed it in 1987 for another development that fell through.

Because the land now sits in Draper, Utah County residents feel they have no say in what happens to the ridge. They don't trust Draper City officials to make decisions about their side of the mountain.

"It's amazing to me that Draper City is suddenly into my backyard," said Alpine resident Carla Gridley. "I don't think they have the other county's interest at heart."

G. Lynn Kimball, Draper Planning Commission chairman, said that's not true. "We care about the wildlife, the deer and the rest of the things that are on that mountain," he said.

Proterra president Charles Ack-erlow said he's a developer who believes in maintaining open space, preserving wildlife habitat and creating recreational opportunities. The 10- to 15-year project named Centennial will include clusters of houses, a hotel, an 18-hole golf course, an equestrian center and hiking and biking trails.

"No homes will be built on ridge lines," he said. "As you look up at ridges you won't see a row of homes."

Blackwell said development will encroach on deer winter range, destroy breeding grounds for neotropical song birds and be detri-mental to the adjacent Uinta National Forest and Lone Peak wilderness.

"It's just placed in a real poor location for wildlife," she said.

"Planting trees in a subdivision is not a habitat."

Salt Lake landscape architect Darrell Bagley said it's time for people to leave the "consumptive culture" behind.

"Utah's rural and pristine areas are being consumed at an alarming rate. What we see is a development pattern that completely gobbles up what was there before it," he said.

Subdivisions sold to city councils with the promise of wide open spaces often end up more urbanized than rural, Bagley said. "There's no view or perception that open space is really there."

Ackerlow said all-terrain vehicles have so badly scarred the mountain that it's time to either close it off or develop homes and dedicate some of the now private property for public use.

That argument doesn't work for Blackwell or Mark Clemens, chairman of the Sierra Club's Utah County chapter. The notion that residents can't stop development, even on private property, is false, he said.

Clemens suggested residents could work to overturn Draper's annexation through the courts or referendum. They could also try to raise money to buy Ackerlow out. Several residents at Wednesday's meeting signed up to look at the options. It will likely be an uphill battle.

"There are some things that can be done if people will be vocal about it enough to make a political issue out of it," Blackwell said.