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Builder asks Springville to lift ban

He wants to build apartments behind his boyhood home

SPRINGVILLE — An Orem builder who grew up in Springville made an impassioned plea to the City Council on Tuesday to allow him to build seven apartments behind his boyhood home.

Smarting from a building moratorium the City Council imposed in November while working on a plan to preserve the area, builder Jim Smart wondered aloud what was going to happen to the equity of his property in Plat A, a historic neighborhood bounded by the central blocks of 400 South, 400 North, 400 East and 400 West. The moratorium was the second imposed by the city in 2000.

"You might as well stick a gun in my ribs and rob me of $25,000," Smart said. The moratorium expires in May.

Smart's elderly mother also asked the council to allow the apartments "so we can share our property with some good people."

City staff is in the midst of writing the new ordinance, Mayor Fritz Boyer said. The city's Historic Preservation Committee and Historical Society say the central blocks are threatened by apartment development.

"All we can do is take what you said under advisement," Boyer said. The ordinance could eliminate apartment zoning in that central area.

The issue comes before the Planning Commission April 10, so the council decided to meet in a special session March 29 at 5 p.m. to give the planners direction. The Council will consider the issue on May 1.

Smart said he, too, is interested in preserving the city's history, but labeled the historic preservation effort as a "smoke screen" for downzoning.

"Some homes don't warrant historic zoning," he said, and some "should be torn down."

Smart pointed to existing apartments, asserting that most don't comply with city ordinances. Springville fails to enforce its nuisance and apartment codes, he charged, characterizing some areas as harboring "junk cars and garbage neighborhoods."

Eliminating apartment zoning won't solve Springville's multi-family unit problems, he said.

Enforcement is being addressed, Boyer said.

Smart labeled as "bunk" the idea that developers were rushing to Springville after Provo tightened its apartment regulations. Only three apartments were built in the past year, according to Springville city records.

"That doesn't sound like developers are rushing in to me," Smart said.

He asked the council to lift the moratorium "so I can exercise the rights of my property."

The council hasn't held a public hearing on the moratorium, Boyer said, agreeing that the moratorium has gone on too long. The hearing will come in May when the council reviews the Planning Commission's recommendation.

Smart said he will speak to residents about his proposal prior to the May 1 meeting.

City Attorney Troy Fitzgerald has expressed concern that the city could face legal challenges if it eliminates multi-family unit zoning.