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Gravel pit's future divides Sandy mayoral race

Sandy mayoral candidates sought to distinguish their political ideals Wednesday from the potential development at a former gravel pit — a divisive issue that will also appear on November's local ballot.

The candidates — Mayor Tom Dolan, Gary T. Forbush and S. Drake Meyer — spoke at a forum at the University of Utah to a room full mostly of students. Some audience members asked about the candidates' plans for the gravel pit at 9400 South and 1000 East, which is the subject of a voter referendum on a zone change that would allow development of the land.

Meyer, who has not raised money and whose only financial disclosure filed this week was a $10 filing fee, did not say whether he would vote yes or no on the referendum, but he said that he would act without favoring causes based on contributions.

"I hope to make an independent decision without people in my hip pocket guiding me," Meyer said. "It's not the amount of money that you spend to be mayor. It's the integrity that you bring to the job."

After the debate, Meyer said he was referring to Dolan, who has collected more than $67,000 in campaign contributions with more than a month left before the Nov. 8 general election, according to financial statements filed Tuesday evening with the Sandy city recorder.

Dolan's list of contributors includes $10,000 from Larry H. Miller, whom Dolan described as a very good friend for the last 30 years (Miller also developed Jordan Commons at 9400 South and State Street in Sandy); $10,000 from Raddon Union Heights, a development and contracting company Dolan said was owned by another good friend; and $8,000 from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Among other donors from 2004 and 2005, Workers Compensation Fund gave $2,500, Anheuser-Busch donated $2,000, and $1,000 came from the Boyer Co., which is spearheading development of the gravel-pit land. Dolan collected numerous smaller donations from local businesses, consulting groups and residents.

Dolan is seeking his fourth term as Sandy mayor, and he said Wednesday that it will be his last.

"I'm running on my record of the last 12 years," which includes maintaining low taxes while providing city services that give Sandy residents a high quality of life, he said. "I want to secure the city a good financial position so that we can provide those services without raising taxes on the public."

Forbush — who helped organize Save Our Communities, the group that opposes Boyer Co.'s proposed development and is campaigning to vote down the referendum — said that he thinks his experience with the small group has prepared him to listen to residents if he is elected mayor.

"It's a democracy in Sandy, or it's supposed to be," Forbush said. "My personal experience from the last 18 months was that there was an agenda from the get-go that wanted development in the gravel pit. The biggest complaint that I hear from people I talk to is that there are a lot of people who do not feel they are listened to."

Forbush has comparatively modest contributions, all of which are from individuals. The $3,200 he has collected thus far has gone primarily for campaign signs and other campaign costs. Forbush said that he hopes to raise more money after the primary election.

Voters will choose two of the three candidates Tuesday in the primary election.