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Layton leads the race for a future higher-education campus in Davis County, with Farmington coming in second out of a field that once saw five energetic contenders.

The Utah State Board of Regents Friday invited Layton and Farmington to spend their own money to prepare initial environmental and geophysical reports on property the state might buy for a "land bank" as a future campus.Farmington has two locations, each about 140 acres, that are tied as college- campus candidates. The regents said the first-choice Layton property should include some nearby acreage in Clearfield.

If studies reveal serious contamination or wetlands problems with these properties, then another location in Syracuse would become the third spot for consideration.

The regents haven't decided just what kind of campus they'd like to create, although there has been discussion about a new community college or a satellite campus of either Salt Lake Community College or the University of Utah.

However, regents have said that Davis County's explosive growth continues to be so rapid that they'd be smart to buy some land now and make policy decisions later. They know they won't lose money - and possibly could profit.

"It's all prime land," said regent Clifford LeFevre, referring to all the options. "It's very salable in the future."

Needless to say, Layton and Farmington leaders were delighted and said that a campus in their city would foster bright educational, cultural and business advantages.

The Layton City Council already has given a unanimous go-ahead for an environmental study. Layton Mayor Jerry Stevenson said city staffers Peter Matson, a planner in the community development department, and Scott Carter, director of community development, would start working on the project Monday.

"We feel this site will come out on top," Stevenson said. "We feel this would be a real plus for the county to locate in Layton."

Among other things, Stevenson said the 100-acre property is on the main transportation grid in Davis County. The land is accessible by three I-15 off-ramps and has access to U.S. 89, U-193 and U-232.

Stevenson said much of the work for an environmental study already has been done for the city's initial presentation. Layton also enjoys another benefit - the federal government is conducting a variety of groundwater tests in the area and the city can make use of that data.

"I can't tell what a (study) package would cost, but a minimum investment would be $2,500," Stevenson said.

Farmington originally spent between $7,000 and $8,000 for its initial presentation, so that City Council now has to decide whether to invest more money and take a chance, according to Farmington Mayor Greg Bell.

"We're delighted to have been chosen," Bell said. "We think a college will bring, firstly, the educational opportunities for our citizens. And, secondly, there will be the ancillary benefits of sporting events, cultural events, related businesses and research."

It will be tough deciding whether to go on with the process, Bell said, although he predicted the council will continue.

"It's really quite a risk for a small city like ours," he said. "We know we're No. 2. You spend considerable funds with the hope of beating out No. 1. You hate to end up the bridesmaid on this one."

Originally, Kaysville and Clearfield also submitted locations, but Clearfield later withdrew from what became a vigorous competition among the cities.