For years, longtime resident Richard Dansie has been turning the ground on seven acres of scrubby and arid tumbleweed territory, making a grassy ranch oasis for city slickers seeking a slice of the rural life.
With his wife, Dixie, Dansie and his five children have planted Chinese elm, blue spruce, ponderosa pine, maples, flowers and fields of grass on their property at 13090 S. 7070 West and opened up their home and land as the Triple D Ranch. From May to December, families rent out the area for family reunions, weddings, picnics, youth and church activities, dances, swimming and company parties.A handful of residents have noticed the success and are appealing Salt Lake County's approval of permits that would legitimize the business, which officials say had been operating illegally for several years.
The county's appeal hearing is Sept. 6.
About four months ago, members of the Southwest Community Council of Concerned Citizens complained to the county that Triple D was operating without permits, so Dansie got the permits.
Now three citizens are leading a fight to appeal on grounds the ranch will cause excess traffic, encourage unsightly camping trailers and violate rules of a greenbelt district where property owners get a tax break to maintain the area's rural, agricultural flavor.
"This is the kind of thing that will be more and more common as development increases west of Herriman," said Bill Marsh, a section manager in the county's Development Services Department.
Others say Triple D is perfect for the area.
"These activities strengthen the rural atmosphere of Herriman and allow others to enjoy positive experiences in a rural setting," Herriman Community Council Chair-man Jerry Walker stated in a letter to the county's Planning and Zoning Commission.
In an area that has long battled zoning for the mobile homes scattered throughout fields in Herriman, camping trailers are a sticking point for some complainants. "These overnight trailers that stay two or three nights are a foot in the door," said Elvira Totorica, a member of the Southwest Concerned Citizens Council.
"It's just not a situation we're happy with at this end of the valley," Totorica said. "Knowing the Dansie family, they might extend it to the end of the valley."
Elwood Dutson, who lives west of Triple D in the High Country Estates, said he doesn't like the idea that Dansie "just does whatever he wants - not even county government can stop him."
Most parties involved in the dispute say the Triple D gets tied up with the Dansie family's power and reputation in the area. Richard's great-great-grandfather, Robert, was one of the first to settle in the region 10 miles west of Riverton, and 25 to 50 Dansies still live there. Members of the family own land trusts and water rights.
A similar battle is being waged over zoning for the nearby B Bar D Ranch owned by Richard's brother, Brent Dansie.
The parties agree on one thing: that Richard Dansie has tastefully transformed his acres to accommodate the Triple D business. "He's doing a beautiful job with his property," Tortorica said.
As far as the customer is concerned, there's no better place to meet.
"It's one of the best-kept secrets in the state of Utah," said John Hunter, who just hosted 70 teenagers and chaperones at what he said was the best youth conference in the history of Bountiful's 31st Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Patsy O'Donnall's of Mesa, Ariz., organized 90 people from six western states for the Huber family reunion in late June. Some camped, some had RVs, some went to motels close by. The Dansies provided a hayride and catered dinners.
In mid-July, Paula Oliver hosted the Morrell family three-day family reunion of 240 people at Triple D Ranch. The volleyball, horseshoes and country western dance were great, but so was the price tag - at $500 per day, it was several times less than other camping and activity areas, she said.
"They treated us very well," she said. "They had strict rules about the pool; other than that, they pretty well left us alone."
These are the comments for which Dansie says he lives. "Our joy comes when the people are happy," he said. "I can see the things I've accomplished in the yard, and I can see the people enjoying them."