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Family donates land to heritage group

LAYTON, Utah (AP) -- Gibbs and Catherine Smith have donated part of their farm as an open-space easement to the Utah Heritage Foundation.

New homes and condominiums will appear across most of the 50-acre farm on East Gentile Road in Layton, but the 1877 home and granary, the 1916 barn and an 1850s cabin will be protected by the eight-acre, open-space easement.It's a tax-saving move that the family hopes other Davis County landowners might copy.

"There are still old farms left in Davis County, but they are fast disappearing and nobody knows what to do except subdivide the hell out of them," said Gibbs Smith, former chairman of the Sierra Club's Utah chapter. "This will give people the idea that there is an alternative."

The tax break allows a developer to offset some of the lost income from selling fewer homes and leaving some pasture. Without the break, Catherine Smith said, saving open space "only makes sense if you're just an altruistic person."

The Utah Heritage Foundation has more than 100 donated easements guaranteeing that historic buildings cannot be altered or destroyed. The Smiths' gift is the first easement that includes open fields as well as the buildings.

"It's something of a model for us as well as other communities," said Kirk Huffaker, community-services director for the Utah Heritage Foundation.

The Smiths will maintain the farm in perpetuity, but the easement allows the Utah Heritage Foundation to reject any major changes. Layton officials will inspect the site every year as an independent audit to prevent changes.

Mayor Jerry Stevenson said city officials are grateful for the open space. "These (farms) are great for the community, especially when they have some of the older things that tie us to the heritage," he said.

Catherine Smith's mother, Oma Wilcox, 90, will continue living in the home. Later, the farm may become more open to the public.

Museums and historians will be invited periodically to give public lectures at the farm. The barn will be converted to an art studio with public access.