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Petition drive, eviction notices heat up

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Deseret Morning News Graphic

As residents of a Heber trailer park where a Wal-Mart may locate deal with eviction notices, sponsors of a voter referendum have turned in some 1,300 signatures to put the big-box decision on the ballot.

The grassroots group Put Heber Valley First! has been fighting against giant retailers in this small bedroom community. They started a petition drive earlier this month after the City Council passed an ordinance that allows for such big-box stores in their quiet town of 9,000, much to the chagrin of the community.

"I think a lot of people have rallied behind us simply because we're a community that makes decisions together," said Matt Heimburger, a leader of Put Heber Valley First! "All we're doing is buying time for us to have a larger discussion. Getting on the ballot feels like a very democratic thing to do."

According to the city clerk's office, the group needs signatures of 35 percent of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election, which amounts to 1,160 signatures.

If those signatures are all verified, the issue will go on the November ballot.

Heimburger, who moved to Heber with his family as a young man in the '70s and returned later to raise his own two sons, said he thinks the size of the proposed big-box would devastate the town.

Others agree and feel the City Council needs to let the community weigh in on the future of the booming town, and many don't think a Wal-Mart should be a part of it.

But city officials point to a 2005 Dan Jones survey of residents that shows they want more shopping in Heber. Another economic leakage study shows Heber residents spend their money outside the city, mostly in Park City or Provo.

And the trailer park is one of the council's biggest concerns.

Earlier this week, more than 100 families of the Pleasant Valley Trailer Park off Heber's Main Street were served with 90-day eviction notices.

Boyer Co. wants to build a Wal-Mart and maybe even a Lowe's at the location. They will go before the council Thursday to request a rezone of the site for such commercial development.

Landowner Doug Heiner said the land has not been sold yet, but he hopes to close within the year.

"We're confident the value of the land has increased so much," Heiner said. "If it doesn't sell to this party, we're confident there will be another."

He is assisting in relocation costs, giving each mobile home owner $1,000 to $4,000.

Residents, however, have no idea where they will go. The few mobile home parks in the pricey Heber Valley are full, and homes and condos in the mountain town are out of reach.

"All these people are just going to lose their trailers because they have nowhere to go; they're just gong to lose their trailers," said Sheila O'Neal, who lives in the park and started a petition to ask the city to relocate residents or move the park to rezoned land. "They should have thought about us before they kicked us out on the street."

O'Neal, a single mother with two children, has no idea what she's going to do. She's been quoted $7,125 to move her Heber trailer to another location in the county. That price jumps to $12,000 to move her trailer to Provo — too much on her limited income.

The Alpine Home Care Hospice, which has cared for some of the trailer park residents, has set up a fund to assist trailer park residents at Bank of the West under Residents of Pleasant Valley.

E-mail: astowell@desnews.com