UTA takes public comment Wednesday on controversial Clearfield plan

(Leah Hogsten  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)    A fight is erupting over how to develop the land around the Clearfield FrontRunner Station. It had long been proposed as a transit-oriented development that would be a regional center for growth with apartments, retail and offices. Now, much of it may become a train car manufacturing plant for Stadler, a company that has been at the center of some UTA scandals. (Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A fight is erupting over how to develop the land around the Clearfield FrontRunner Station. It had long been proposed as a transit-oriented development that would be a regional center for growth with apartments, retail and offices. Now, much of it may become a train car manufacturing plant for Stadler, a company that has been at the center of some UTA scandals.
Hearing • Discussion to center around proposal to build rail-car assembly plant instead of “transit-oriented development.”

The Utah Transit Authority board is giving the public a chance to weigh in on a controversial proposal about how to develop UTA-owned land around the Clearfield FrontRunner Station.

A committee of the board has scheduled a public meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Clearfield City Offices, 55 State Street, to discuss it and take public comment. The meeting will be in the council chambers on the third floor.

Clearfield is proposing to buy UTA land at the site to resell it, at a discount, to Stadler Rail to allow it to build a rail-car assembly plant there.

Previously, UTA had sought to construct a “transit oriented development” there with retail, offices and apartments to increase transit ridership.

Regional planners envisioned it becoming one of a string of “town centers” along rail lines that would help handle an expected doubling of Utah’s population by building skyward instead of sprawling outward. Some worry the Stadler proposal could throw a wrench into such regional plans.

However, UTA recently canceled its contract with The Thackeray Garn Co. for development at the site, saying progress was slow and UTA wanted out after questionable dealings by that company with former UTA board members and officials.

Clearfield officials said that cancellation left no projects on the near horizon for most of the site, except for the proposal by Stadler Rail, which they say may bring 400 to 1,000 jobs and help revitalize surrounding areas.

UTA is working through Clearfield, rather than directly with Stadler, because of its controversial history with the agency.

Several UTA board members and former board Chairman Greg Hughes traveled to Switzerland and Stadler headquarters in 2015.

That visit forced UTA to discard bids at the time by Stadler and others seeking to lease a portion of a UTA maintenance facility because of the appearance of favoritism. Stadler later won the lease anyway, after a rebidding process.

The UTA board last month delayed expected conditional approval of the project when it learned that the contractor proposed to build the rail-car assembly plant is Sheldon Killpack, a former UTA board member who resigned under fire after he went on that controversial Swiss trip.

The board decided to take extra time to take public comment and look further into whether Killpack’s involvement creates legal problems, or serious issues with real or perceived conflicts of interest