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Why didn’t Draper say no to home construction in risky area?

KTVZ - NewsChannel 21

By Nate Carlisle

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    DRAPER, Utah (KSTU) — After watching houses slide over a cliff in Draper last weekend, many have asked why the city let someone build there at all.

“We’ve had multiple developments that are on geologic hazards,” said Draper City Manager David Dobbins. “We’ve had faults, landslides, debris flows where development has been proposed.

“We still haven’t found a way to unilaterally say no without the risk of the taxpayers of draper having to buy the land at fair-market value.”

That includes when EDGEhomes applied to build on the slope in Hidden Canyon Estates that gave way early Saturday.

While Draper has an ordinance addressing building on certain slopes, EDGE submitted engineering plans intending to make the houses stable.

“Because at some point we are required to let people do with their property what they want to do within the constraints of our regulations,” added Dobbins.

The state lawmaker who represents residents in the area says cities are sometimes handcuffed based upon the representations of a developer.

“I’ve been out there to inspect and I feel for those neighbors,” said Sen. Kirk Cullimore.

Cullimore said the landslide will spur a discussion in the legislature of whether to create more regulations for developers, but added lawmakers aren’t necessarily ready to give cities that unilateral power to say no.

“Rather than just saying no, maybe we say this land is high risk. And if you want to develop here, then, you know, maybe there’s an additional impact fee to mitigate those potential, those potential risks or something like that,” he said.

When asked if the legislature would consider making developers like EDGE liable for the property value loss to surrounding homeowners, Cullimore claimed that becomes difficult policy.

“Unfortunately, this is a little bit of a buyer beware, and so I think these types of incidences are going to cause more homeowners to really ask questions,” he said, “and maybe get proper insurance to cover that type of stuff.”

Dobbins would like additional tools to help cities say no to risky development, but for now, homes in the Draper neighborhood are valued at up to a $1 million dollars or more.

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