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Farmington finds new land to build soccer fields, leaving farmland safe

FARMINGTON — Alan Bangerter will not have to give up his Farmington farm.

Earlier this week, the city reached an agreement to build soccer fields in a new location after the original plan to buy a portion of Bangerter's vegetable field faced resistance. The deal between the city, Utah Department of Transportation and Allen Kelly, of Arizona, will provide 17.7 acres of land that Kelly owns near Station Park, about 2 miles north of Bangerter's land.

"Hands down, this is a much better deal for all involved," said Brigham Mellor, Farmington's economic development director.

Alan Bangerter, back, keeps track of spaghetti squash his crew harvests on a piece of his property at 400 S. 650 West in Farmington on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.
Alan Bangerter, back, keeps track of spaghetti squash his crew harvests on a piece of his property at 400 S. 650 West in Farmington on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Mellor said the Kelly family was happy to make the deal — they own about 50 more acres north of the proposed park that they want to develop.

And Bangerter is happy his family farm is intact.

"They may have had to pay a little more per acre (for the new land agreement), but I maintain that farm ground that's actively growing fruits and vegetables should be the highest and best use of any property because it's irreplaceable," he said. "You can plant parks, you can plant buildings almost anywhere, but you can't grow fruit and vegetables anywhere."

Part of the West Davis Corridor highway — expected to begin construction in 2020 — cuts through a park in Farmington with multiple soccer fields. Federal regulations require UDOT to replace the soccer fields elsewhere.

UDOT will pay about $3 million for the land, Mellor said, as well as about $1.5 million for rebuilding the fields.

Mellor said the city will be left to pay about $1.5 million as well for the improvement process, but UDOT agreed to give the former park surrounding the finished highway back to the city upon completion, acting as both a small park and an open space buffer for the residents near the highway.

"This is a win for the city and the area residents," said Farmington Mayor Pro Tem Brett Anderson. "I hope our citizens realize we took a lemon and turned it into lemonade."

The city and UDOT planned to purchase a parcel of Bangerter's land for the new fields because it would be conveniently close to the Farmington Gymnasium.

Bangerter said if the plan went through, his multigeneration farming family would lose a third of its vegetable production. Word spread of the issue, and the city faced resistance from the community, including a petition to leave the land alone.

Bangerter was told in a hearing May 1 that his land would no longer be in jeopardy of being turned into soccer field, but he worried about potential attempts to purchase it in the future.

He applied to have multiple pieces of his land across Davis County, including the land in question, declared as protected agriculture land. The protected status was approved by the City Council and UDOT within a few days of the hearing, Bangerter said.

"It makes it very difficult for a state or city entity to take this property," he said. The protection is valid for 20 years.

Although the original park replacement plans would have put the soccer fields near the current recreation center, Mellor believes the new deal is better in the end.

"I think this is a testament to working with government entities rather than against," Mellor said. "We've learned it's better to work through a partnership and have willing participants than to try and get somebody who doesn't want to."