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Legacy Highway at critical crossroads

Davis leaders urge residents to support project at hearing

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CENTERVILLE — Davis County leaders have made an impassioned plea for residents to support the proposed Legacy Highway during a public hearing Wednesday at Woods Cross High School.

"It is time for citizens — not just public officials — to step up," state Rep. Marda Dillree, R-Farmington, said. "I don't think they realize how much we need them as individual citizens to come out Wednesday night and participate."

County commissioners, mayors and representatives from nearly every city in Davis County met Monday to discuss the importance of Wednesday's meeting and the need for resident support. Both those in favor of and opposed to the development expect the hearing to be one of the most important meetings yet concerning the highway project.

The Army Corps of Engineers is sponsoring an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. and a public hearing from 6 to 9 p.m. at the high school, 600 W. 2200 South, to discuss the final environmental impact statement and a wetlands permit for the project.

In an effort to rally public participation, the Davis Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a tailgate party before the hearing from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Commissioner Dannie McConkie described the Legacy Highway issue as one of the most important facing Davis County.

"A quality of life issue of mobility is at stake here," he said. "We hope at least the majority at Wednesday's meeting have addresses in this county, . . . that they come on behalf of their posterity."

A May 1999 survey conducted by Dan Jones & Associates commissioned by the Davis County Council of Governments indicated that 67 percent of county residents favor the Legacy Highway. And Davis leaders appear to be unanimous in their support.

"So many issues create at least some kind of division among leaders," Council of Governments chairman DeMar Mitchell said. "(But) 100 percent are behind Legacy Highway."

Even Centerville, which will act as a "crunch area" for the highway as it cuts into the city's industrial area, is backing the project.

"If it takes us to be the sacrificial lamb . . . we'll go along with it," Mayor Frank Hirschi said.

McConkie said county residents frequently approach him at gas stations, barber shops and church gatherings, telling him they want the highway to be built.

But not enough of these people are voicing their support in public forums and, as a result, environmental groups that oppose the highway are doing a lot of the talking.

The Sierra Club argues the building of Legacy Highway will destroy critical wetlands, increase air pollution and increase traffic and urban sprawl. Marc Heileson of the Sierra Club's southwest region office says the group is much more supportive of the possibility of creating mass public transit in northern Utah.

"The Legacy Highway could do terrible things to the long-range plans of these communities," Heileson said. He also notes that the wetlands play an important role in the environment by harboring birds in migration.

"It's such an internationally significant site," he said.

UDOT reports that the highway would affect 114 acres of wetland, leaving more than 1,500 acres unharmed. McConkie says that residents and leaders are taking environmental issues seriously, but that "freedom of movement" and growth issues in the county are also important.

"Everyone who lives here is environmentally conscious, . . . but we human beings are a species, too," he said.

Anyone wishing to speak at Wednesday's public hearing is invited to sign up prior to 6 p.m.

E-MAIL: ehayes@desnews.com