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HILL NEIGHBORS TRYING TO KEEP DREAMS ALIVE

More than 50 years ago, Delbert S. Patterson's father agreed to sell part of the family homestead to help the Army build Hill Air Force Base.

The younger Patterson never thought having the base for a neighbor could threaten his and his wife's dream of keeping their family around them."I ought to have the right to have my kids live close to me," said the father of seven.

Patterson is among 13 base neighbors so far facing state condemnation of their building rights to prevent residential areas from encroaching on Hill.

"I'm a little upset," Patterson's wife, Lola, said. "We made this promise to our children when they were little," that they could each have an acre of the farm to build on.

"It's been our dream to give them something, to help get them started out in life."

The Legislature moved in 1994 to help protect Hill from closure. Legislators said housing developments closing in around the base threatened to restrict its aircraft operations and thus the base itself.

The lawmakers authorized the state Community and Economic Development Department to spend $9.5 million to acquire easements on roughly 800 acres of Hill's southern and northern borders. The idea was to let people retain ownership of their land but stop future development of homes, apartments or schools near the base.

The state has been buying up easements that restrict about 280 property owners from future residential building projects, said the department's Dick Bradford.

Part of the department's authority is the power to seek condemnation of the easements when owners refuse to sell.

The Pattersons, who own 70 acres along South Weber Drive in Riverdale, are among the handful who thus far have rejected the state's money.

"It appears 25 to 30 cases will end up in condemnation actions, but some of these will be settled before we get to court," Bradford said.

When the state and a landowner cannot agree on a compensation amount to keep the lands relatively rural, the state is asking 2nd District Court to condemn the development rights and determine an amount the property owner should be paid.

In addition to giving land to her children, Lola Patterson also wants to build a home on the farm for her 91-year-old mother "so she can be next to me and I can take care of her."

Rep. Grant Protzman, D-North Ogden, said individuals have to be willing to sacrifice for the greater good, in this case Hill's more than 10,000 jobs.

Encroachment by residential development is among the criteria used in judging a military installation's long-term viability.

"We have to use common sense and compassion," Protzman said. "I don't want to see the state ripped off or taken to the cleaners by people who might take advantage of a situation like this. But we also have to be reasonable about it."

Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, doesn't like the condemnations.

"I think the Legislature needs to revisit this," he said. "I don't want to see somebody's ground condemned by government. Property rights are sacred rights."

Bradford said department officials believe most owners of property in the safety zones north and south of Hill's runway will agree to a settlement.

"But there are a few who are just philosophically opposed to having the state interfere with their property rights and those will have to go to court," he said.