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Seven Peaks victory is not final, residents fear

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Residents who defeated the controversial Seven Peaks housing project Tuesday night took a Utah Jazz-like approach to the victory: They didn't exult but contemplated their next move in what might ultimately be a grueling series.

Moments after the City Council narrowly turned down Brent and Scott McQuarrie's request to rezone the Seven Peaks Golf Course for a development proposal that includes 300 houses, condos and twin homes, residents huddled to share sports cliches like, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings.""They'll come back with some skunk routine," said Karen Hyer, a member of a group calling itself Concerned Families of Provo.

Residents apparently see the McQuarries as the Chicago Bulls of the development world and won't count them out. They think they're bound to meet the brothers again in another arena, most likely a courtroom.

"I don't think the McQuarries have any intention of dealing with the city of Provo anymore," said Charles Abbott, an attorney for Seven Peaks. They complied with everything the council asked for in making the project palatable, including whittling the number of units from 494 to 300, he said.

The developers will "carefully consider litigation," Abbott said. Lawsuits might be directed at the city as well as members of Concerned Families of Provo.

Abbott accused residents of spreading lies and orchestrating a petition drive to make it look like there was more opposition than there was. "Anyone who can fog up a mirror can sign one of those petitions," he said. Abbott wants to know who started the rumors he believes brought about the downfall of the project.

Bring it on, says Jeff Hunt, an attorney and object of Abbott's wrath.

"I hope they sue me personally," he said. "If they do, they open themselves to a counter claim."

Residents seemed eager for Seven Peaks to depose them so they can do the same to the developers. They say their petition was legitimate and it was Seven Peaks who misled people in trying to cull favor for the housing proposal. They also charge, though they have no proof, that the city made behind-the-scenes deals with Seven Peaks.

Specifically, residents say Provo promised Seven Peaks approval of the housing project in exchange for concessions and money from the developers to build an Olympic ice arena.

"Absolutely untrue," said Mayor Lewis Billings, who heads the Provo City/Utah County Ice Sheet Authority. Seven Peaks, Provo and Utah County are jointly building the ice sheet just south of the hillside golf course.

A dazed Scott McQuarrie had little to say after Tuesday's council meeting and Seven Peaks project manager Clark Mitchell waved off questions. Brent McQuarrie, who blew up in anger in front of Council Chairman Greg Hudnall after the council postponed a vote on the issue last month, wisely stayed away from Tuesday's meeting. "He decided he'd better watch it on television," Abbott said.

The meeting was the least rancorous of numerous hearings on the issue the past six months. Maybe the three Provo police officers posted as sentries in the council chambers had something to do with that.

A much-anticipated report from the Utah Attorney General's Office appeared to have no influence on council members' votes. Assistant Attorney General Brian Farr concluded Provo improperly changed a land-use plan in 1995 to allow development on the Seven Peaks Golf Course. Residents brought the matter and other perceived irregularities to Farr's attention several months ago.

Council members had a cursory discussion about the 13-page report before voting 4-3 to deny the rezoning request.

Councilwoman Shari Holweg proved to be the swing vote. After lamenting the public vilification of residents and developers and extolling the housing project, a bleary-eyed Holweg voted against the proposal, saying a majority of residents oppose it.