SALT LAKE CITY — A bevy of boosters stepped forward to make the case for the sale of a plot of Utah Transit Authority land in Clearfield so it can be developed into a train manufacturing plant.
Utah Sen. Gregg Buxton, Utah Rep. Mike Schultz and Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd lobbied on behalf of the plan at a UTA Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, focusing on the jobs the proposed plant would generate.
“It’s not only just important for Clearfield. It’s important for northern Utah,” said Schultz, a Republican from Hooper whose district includes portions of Davis and Weber counties.
Shepherd warned that without the proposed Stadler Rail train manufacturing plant, the land may “sit stagnant.”
A rep from the Salt Lake Chamber, Abby Osborne, vice president of government relations, even argued on behalf of the proposal. The proposed facility — off State Street near the FrontRunner station in Clearfield — would employ up to 1,000 people at full speed and help diversify Utah’s economy, she said.
Those addressing board members ahead of their discussion on the matter weren’t all cheerleaders, though.
Clara Geddes, a UTA watchdog from Cottonwood Heights, warned UTA officials to avoid any perception of conflict of interest as they mull the proposal and advised them to take their time. UTA, she said, should get fair-market value for the 23.7 acres Clearfield wants to buy and, in turn, transfer to Swiss-based Stadler for its proposed plant.
George Chapman, another citizen watchdog from Salt Lake City, also counseled patience. “You have too many questions that aren’t going to be answered today or even this month… I’m asking you not to do this, not to make a commitment,” he said.
Buxton, whose district covers portions of Weber and Davis counties, acknowledged the conflict-of-interest charges and perceptions of corruption that have at times dogged UTA, but said the project is worth it.
“People are going to be suspicious regardless of what you do. This is a project that’s well and needed and deserved up north,” he said.
In the end, the UTA board tabled action. Clearfield reps want UTA officials to remove the transit-oriented development designation from the land — applied to UTA parcels near FrontRunner stops meant to be converted into developments that encourage train traffic — and declare it surplus so the city can acquire it.
They tentatively discussed holding a public meeting on May 10 in Clearfield to get input from locals in the community. They may make a final determination at their next regular meeting on May 24.
Meantime, another appraisal of the property in question is being completed to help pinpoint the potential sales price.
And Jayme Blakely, the UTA legal counsel, said UTA officials are awaiting a response from Davis County and Stadler officials about possible involvement of people with UTA links in the push for the land sale. The hope is to head off potential charges of conflict of interest.
Clearfield officials have already answered UTA queries.