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Highland neighbors up in arms over power-line-permit approval

David Gleed has heard the horror stories of living near power lines.

"I feel there is a danger," he said. "They proved in those California cases that it is a danger to people living underneath power lines."Gleed has joined about 125 other Highland residents opposing a decision by the city Planning Commission to grant Utah Power a conditional-use permit to string power lines down 6000 West in Highland.

Gleed lives on that road. He has signed a petition against the proposed power lines, which will run near houses and land designated for conservation.

The decision to grant the permit will be appealed this week to the Utah County Board of Adjustments, said residents Lynn Anderson and Chris Howden, who are leading the protest.

Anderson vehemently objects to the Planning Commission's approval, which was made in a three-hour meeting despite a recommendation by a subcommittee to deny the permit.

"This issue has not fully been studied," he said. "I do not believe any member of the Planning Commission fully understands the issue or the impact this decision has upon our city. I do not understand why we cannot study other alternatives before we allow outsiders to run our city and neighborhoods."

Howden is concerned about the city's process to grant a conditional-use permit.

Both the residents and Planning Commission believed the approval would serve as a recommendation to the City Council and that council members would have to give the request final approval.

Wrong. The buck stops at the planning panel.

"We were dismayed and surprised to learn that our own city officials did not even know the actual conditional-use permit process in the city," Howden said.

Howden believes the council can override the permit approval. Utah law makes a provision for councils to either delegate authority to the Planning Commission or retain the authority for final decisions.

He also said the council should be "responsible and accountable" for significant infrastructure and utility changes and additions.

"We realize that occasionally the City Council will make decisions that we do not like," he said. "That is OK. We do, however, want the city to make these decisions after following a process that allows maximum input from interested parties and citizens."

Councilwoman Teri Jerman said Highland's codes are now being scrutinized to smooth out such kinks. She added that it is heartening to see residents get interested and involved with city issues.

"I appreciate the citizens being involved," she said. "It is an important part of the process."