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Fruit Heights housing suit grows

2 groups join legal effort by Sandy developer

The NAACP and the Disabled Rights Action Committee have joined in a Sandy developer's more than $16 million lawsuit against Fruit Heights and city officials for rejecting plans for moderate-income housing.

The two advocacy groups say they joined the lawsuit because the city has continued to exclude persons with disabilities, and moderate- to low-income individuals.

Two individuals have also joined the suit, which was originally filed in 2nd District Court in 2003 on behalf of Garbett Homes after its plans to build townhomes starting at $140,000 were rejected.

The suit against the city, the mayor and individual council members claimed the city violated the Utah Fair Housing Act by failing to enact a moderate-income housing plan. The amended suit has been expanded to include former City Council members.

Fruit Heights attorney Kristin VanOrman said the city has since adopted a moderate-income housing plan, and said the city does have accessible housing for disabled individuals and moderate-income housing.

"At this point we are looking at the merits of their claims and considering filing a motion to dismiss," VanOrman said. "In my view this is a pretty straightforward case of a developer not getting what he wants to and trying to circumvent the system."

VanOrman deferred questions on details of the city's available housing to city officials. Mayor Rick Miller, who is a defendant, had deferred all questions to VanOrman.

Plaintiffs' attorney Mike Hutchings said the city's new moderate-income housing plan is "watered down" to the point that it's unusable.

He said the individuals are named because of their "repeated refusal to abide by the terms of the (state) moderate-income housing law."

Hutchings said in Davis County, a "moderate family income" would range from about $35,000 to $40,000 a year.

"We're talking about a lot of good hardworking people who are being denied housing opportunities," he said.

VanOrman said Fruit Heights' dispute with Garbett centered around the location of the development and not with moderate- or low-income housing.

"Fruit Heights is not opposed to low- or moderate-income housing," she said. "There are other properties available" for development.

Developer Bryson Garbett said he's now moving toward final approval of a townhome development in neighboring Farmington.

"We'd love to build some housing in Fruit Heights. We've come to the conclusion that Fruit Heights wouldn't allow attached housing."

Jerry Costley, executive director of DRAC, said Fruit Heights' city manager at the time the suit was filed admitted there was no accessible housing available in the city.

"The builder promised to develop eight of the units as accessible, it's a great opportunity to have this," he said.


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com