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Draper hopes to make new housing semi-rural

The tract was land farmed since the 1850s

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DRAPER — After failing to find a way to preserve a large tract of farmland in the city's heart, officials here hope that they can at least protect the land from sprouting another cookie-cutter subdivision.

Ideally, the city would like to see the planned 400-plus unit subdivision include a city park and an elementary school, Assistant City Manager Eric Keck said. The subdivision will be built on approximately 148 acres once owned and farmed by Dale Ballard, from 13200 South to 13400 South between 300 East and Fort Street. The land has been farmed almost continuously since the settling of Draper in the 1850s.

Originally, city leaders had tried to persuade Ballard to work out a deal with either them or a preservation group that would have permanently protected the empty fields from development, Keck said. That eventually fell through, primarily because the city could not match the almost $8 million sale price.

"Now that we understand it's going to be developed, we've come to the realization that we need to work with the developer," Keck said. "We would like to see something different than the typical subdivision."

Along with the city park, Keck said, city planners are pushing for clustered housing instead of the stamped lots common to most subdivisions, which would greatly increase the common green space. They also hope to reduce the number of cul-de-sacs and create a community feeling.

"We would like to see more of a quasi-rural development," he said.

The land is some of the largest remaining open space in the city, which has seen its farmlands and mountainside steadily disappear into residential and commercial developments. The Ballard Farm — as it is commonly called — is practically surrounded by single-family homes, and future commercial developments are expected to crop up on neighboring fields near I-15.

The Ballard Farm also hosts some wildlife, although it is not designated as official habitat or wetlands, Keck said. Instead, it is part of an overall wildlife corridor once heavily traveled by deer, fox and other animals that South Mountain developments have essentially swallowed.

LDM Development, which is proposing the subdivision, requested that it be allowed to build single-family homes on the land, with each home occupying one-third of an acre.

"We will do something equally nice, or even more nice, than surrounding areas," LDM partner Mike Skalla said.

Skalla said LDM has started negotiating with Draper about a possible land swap for a city park, and has also talked to Jordan School District about reserving 12-16 acres for a future school. Beyond that, LDM has no specific designs.

Even without more specific plans, LDM has encountered some opposition from residents who want to protect the loss of more open space in Draper. With more public hearings required for their permits, that opposition will likely continue to grow. Skalla said that while LDM hopes to ease some people's fears with a quality project, he does not doubt that a number of people will still criticize the development.

"We knew some of the history behind the property," Skalla said. "We weren't naive going into this, thinking it would be a cakewalk."

E-MAIL: jloftin@desnews.com