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Heber Wal-Mart gets OK — unless it’s voted down

SHARE Heber Wal-Mart gets OK — unless it’s voted down

HEBER CITY — Zoning for a future Wal-Mart in Heber was approved by the Heber City Council 4-1 Thursday night, but with a citywide November vote likely on big-box giant stores, it's unknown if the retailer will ever locate in the quiet mountain town.

The city gave the OK for zoning on a 70-acre mixed-use development, days after grass-roots group Put Heber Valley First! turned in nearly 1,600 signatures of Heber residents for a voter referendum. If successful, residents can vote whether or not to overturn an ordinance the city approved in February that allows for big-box stores in the bedroom community.

They need 1,160 signatures of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election to make it on the ballot. The Wasatch County Clerk's Office is currently checking those signatures and should have a final certified count next week.

The issue is particularly sensitive to residents because in June 2005, the City Council voted for an ordinance limiting the size of retailers in their town to 60,000 square feet.

Also of dire concern to the City Council is how to help residents of the 100-unit Pleasant Valley Trailer Park, who are being told they must move out by June 30 to make way for the project.

Residents of the park tearfully addressed the council, asking the city to help them in their plight.

"When do you guys step in and say this isn't right?" said Venus Dodson, adding she still owes $49,000 on her mobile home. "I'm ready to have a nervous breakdown."

Last week, the mobile home park residents were served with 90-day eviction notices, leaving them feeling hopeless as to where they go next.

"Somebody needs to help us," said Sheila O'Neal, a single mother of three. "It's very devastating."

The city, however, cannot legally do anything to help the mobile home park.

"This is pretty frustrating for all the people in this community," Heber Mayor Dave Phillips said. "The property owner decided, regardless of zoning, he's going to sell it. ... We're trying. But we can't go out and create a shelter or a trailer park for you to move into."

The city has been looking into housing assistance plans and posed the idea of asking landowner Doug Heiner to delay the move-out date by another 30 days.

Developer Boyer Co. has committed early funds to help the residents and, along with Heiner, will give $1,000-4,000 per unit for moving costs.

"We're sensitive to the needs of the mobile home, and we wish there was a better solution," said Wade Williams, Boyer's director of retail development. "It's awkward because we don't own the land. ... We're really disappointed we couldn't just relocate the trailer park."

Recent economic leakage studies show that Heber residents spend their money outside the city, mostly in Park City or Provo. Residents have complained to the city for years that they want more business in Heber Valley, prompting the city to approve the February ordinance allowing for large retailers.

If the referendum is approved, Boyer cannot move forward with construction. Williams said they plan to show design plans to residents before a citywide vote.

E-mail: astowell@desnews.com