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Farmington delays subdivision OK until accord reached on trail access

The City Council has reaffirmed its policy of preserving access to the foothills in the face of ever-increasing residential development.

In a meeting earlier this month, the council postponed final approval of the Shepard Heights subdivision while residents of the nearby Somerset Farms meet with developers to agree on the trail access issue.Some area residents say they never even knew the land they cross to gain access to the Shepard Canyon area was privately owned.

For example, Beth Johnston said she's had unlimited freedom to roam about the foothill area for the past 26 years.

"Give us one good way," she told the developers.

There's some disagreement over where the best route for a trail should be and some trails would compromise building lots worth $125,000 an acre.

Developers say the trail access issue has thus become an economic burden for them.

They would prefer the city purchase a right of way for a trail. However, Mayor Greg Bell said they city has never purchased such a right of way and won't begin now.

"If we have to start drawing lines, we will," Bell said, explaining he'd prefer the residents and developers continue their dialogue for a hopeful solution.

Bell said every subdivision in the foothills in the past eight years has left trail access for the public. This one should be no exception.

He praised the developers for wanting to work with residents, though.

Residents and city leaders like the concept of Shepard Heights because of its low density. It is located just east of Somerset Farms on a 95-acre parcel.

Councilwoman Pat Achter is especially concerned because she's from the south end of the city where residents also used to have total access until development came along.

"It's not like it used to be," she said.