Draper neighbors still feuding over backyard rule
The embers of an old dispute in Draper have reignited, and a neighborhood remains divided.
At issue is a restriction that limits where landscape can be altered on property that abuts scenic Corner Canyon.
In February, the City Council overturned that restriction for John and Angela Dayton's backyard in the Corner Canyon Vista subdivision. To add insult to injury, some residents say, the Daytons strayed from the plan they presented to the council and installed a bright blue-and-red basketball court that neighbors feel ruins the scenery.
Now another family is seeking a similar rule change for the back end of their lot, and neighbors say they want the restriction to stay in place to protect the natural landscape.
During a Draper Planning Commission meeting on Aug. 9, lot owner Andrew Kelley cited the Dayton decision as a precedent for lifting the restriction so he can move forward with his house and backyard plans. But the commission voted unanimously not to recommend overturning the rule because it wouldn't be fair to homeowners who followed it on their own lots.
Kelley's request to remove the Limit of Disturbance designation on the ridgeline now goes to the City Council, whose earlier 4-1 vote in favor of the Daytons was criticized by residents.
"A mistake was made with the Daytons," said next-door neighbor Barbara Watkins after the commission meeting. "There's no point repeating that mistake" with the Kelleys.
Another neighbor agreed the Dayton decision was a mistake due to political interference. "Draper city let it happen" because of undue influence from state lawmakers, charged Deryl Strong.
He noted that in 2010, after a negative recommendation by the planning commission, the council unanimously rejected a request by the Daytons, son and daughter-in-law of Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, to grade their backyard.
In a court-ordered re-hearing two years later on Feb. 21, the council did an about-face after members received an email about the issue from Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. State Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, an attorney, represented the Daytons in the dispute.
Council members have acknowledged receiving Niederhauser's email but say they didn't feel pressured by it. Margaret Dayton, head of the Senate's powerful Rules Committee, has said she didn't contact any council members or the mayor. Niederhauser has said he was contacted by John Dayton, not his mother.
This spring, the Daytons completed their backyard, which includes a red-and-blue sports court. The court was not on the plan they presented to the city, though they weren't legally obligated to follow the plan to the letter.
The court, neighbors say, doesn't fit the canyon's aesthetics.
"I feel like I live next to Tim Burton now," said Strong.
Watkins calls it a "blight on Corner Canyon."
"I don't know if the Daytons deliberately lied about their landscaping plans or if they changed their minds," she said in a letter to residents. "But I feel Draper betrayed us, and the Daytons betrayed the trust of Draper City."
John Dayton said Friday that as a property owner, he was within his right to build the court, and that dozens of neighbors attended a City Council meeting earlier this year to support his bid to grade his backyard.
"Because 50 neighbors were in support, and the City Council members voted 4-1, I finally have access to the land I've been paying taxes on for three years, and I like to play basketball with my sons."
Andrew Kelley said Thursday he wants to be a good neighbor but asked for the development restriction to be removed so he and his wife can have "a nice backyard for our children."
Neighbors contend there's room for a backyard but that Kelley must respect the rule on open space.
LaVar Christensen also represented the Kelleys at the Aug. 9 planning commission meeting. Christensen told commission members that the City Council's decision in the Dayton case set a good precedent on property rights. He also claimed that the Limit of Disturbance approved by the city and developer in 2002 was never intended to restrict landscaping, only development on certain hillside grades. The back of the Kelley lot, he said, has a slope appropriate for development and that the approved language on protecting open space goes too far.
Greg Wilding, of Wilding Engineering which designed the subdivision agreed with Christensen, claiming the subdivision developer was "broadsided" by a city staff member who said approval of the subdivision was contingent on a Limit of Disturbance to protect the slope and vegetation.
"We chose to go along with that," but that wasn't our intent, Wilding said Thursday. Slope was the main concern.
Strong said he doesn't want another surprise like the Daytons' basketball court.
"I don't know what the Kelleys are going to do, because I believed what the Daytons were going to do" in their original plan, he said.
P The Draper City Council will hold a public hearing on Andrew Kelley's request to amend his Corner Canyon subdivision plan by removing a development restriction; Aug. 21, 7 p.m., Draper City Hall, 1020 E. Pioneer Road.