Despite the fact that it will likely mean losing a local business, the City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday last week to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed a manufacturing firm to build next door to a large residential area.
About three dozen residents turned out for a two-hour-long public hearing on the issue and all of them spoke against the manufacturing company's request.Utility Trailer Manufacturing had requested a rezone for 55 acres of land it owns, near 600 E. 1700 South, from agricultural to light manufacturing.
The expanding company, which manufactures refrigerated semi-trailer trucks, is currently located in a 56-year-old building in the Freeport Center, one mile to the northwest. The company employs 530 workers - including 70 city residents.
Utility plant manager Steve Smith said there's no way to remodel or improve that pre-World War II building and still remain competitive in the trailer building business.
"We have to build a new facility, in order to remain in the semitrailer business," Smith said. If they are not allowed to build at the present site, he said, the company will have to relocate outside the city.
He said the company wanted to build a 450,000-square-foot facility on the property. He believes that with some 6-foot-high berms, fencing, hundreds of trees and new manufacturing technology, the company could keep noise and pollution under control while also having a pleasing-looking facility.
None of his potential neighbors agreed.
Bryan Robinson's comments were typical of a dozen residents who spoke out - a manufacturing plant does not belong next door to a subdivision and there's no way to effectively screen it from nearby homes.
"If this is approved, the whole area will develop as M-2 (manufacturing zone)," Cynthia Jensen, another concerned resident, predicted.
She also said it was a mistake for the City Council to change the master plan zoning for the area, especially because the Planning Commission had recommended against it. She and others said manufacturing should stay on the north side of 1700 South.
Sam Chelmes, a nearby landowner who also still farms in the area, said his lifelong plan has been to develop a subdivision on his land. However, the presence of a manufacturing company next door would ruin that dream.
"We are absolutely against this," he said, also speaking for his brother.
Some residents wondered why Utility Trailer couldn't just buy more space in the Freeport Center. However, Smith said Utility is the only company in the Freeport that owns its own land and building. He said the Freeport operators prefer to lease out buildings, while Utility Trailer prefers to own its land and building.
Smith said he wasn't threatening the city in any way, but without a rezone, the company will have to relocate elsewhere and it won't be in Clearfield because there's no other suitable location available.
He said the company does some $4.5 million worth of business annually with other Clearfield companies and feels Utility moving would be devastating to them.
Smith's not sure where Utility will end up relocating, but the company hopes to start a new building - possibly somewhere else in northern Utah - this summer.
Several residents predicted Utility's Freeport building would not be vacant for long.