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Sp. Fork, residents debate road

City says rezoning land would pave way for shops

SPANISH FORK — Emil Pierson is the driving force behind a new road that will lead to hundreds of new homes being built on Spanish Fork's east bench.

But many residents don't like the path the project is taking.

Pierson, who is the city planner, is pushing for the road and a change in zoning regulations to allow the possible construction of a large shopping center in the area.

"We don't want a big commercial property there," said Amy Jensen, who worries about busy streets where children walk to school and how her neighborhood will change.

"We moved into a rural area on purpose," she said.

Resident Carl Bowcutt wants the city to consult with a committee of residents before acting. People like Bowcutt feel the proposal is being pushed through, despite efforts to slow it down.

As Pierson envisions it, the rezoned land — originally 65.44 acres — would one day have one or more "walkable" shopping centers, much like The Shops at Riverwoods in Provo.

The rezone may shrink by some 20 acres, Pierson said.

Whatever the size, he said, it's easier to designate the vacant land now, rather than have to buy up and move homes later. "We want to get ahead of development," he said.

As Pierson sees it, the future 2300 East will cut through from U.S. 6 to the Spanish Fork River Bottoms, fertile land where early pioneers first settled.

From there it will join Bottoms Road.

The road would start midway between 2550 East and Center Street on U.S. 6 and give residents another access into and out of the east bench, he said.

His idea for a major regional commercial development, coupled with the potential for apartments and condominiums is taking shape — at least on paper.

Yet, Bowcutt worries that if the economy slows and road construction is tied to commercial development, it may be years before the road is built. So far, no one has shown interest in building a commercial center, Pierson said.

But when they do, the city wants to be ready.

The Planning Commission gave the rezone a positive recommendation to the City Council at its last meeting, but the council won't hold a public hearing on it until April.

Until then, Mayor Dale Barney says, "I have no opinion on it."

But the recommendation wasn't without its naysayers. Planning Commissioner David Lewis cast the one dissenting vote. His property backs against the area that would be rezoned.