“The city is considering a three-month, temporary land use restriction,” Mayor Brad Frost announced sternly as the first order of business. His microphone was off, but his voice carried through the intimate and ornate meeting space.
“The city will not be accepting new development plans or requests for zoning modifications.”
If you want to rile up a town, nothing does it better than talking about people’s land. Surely enough, a strange but emotional scene slowly unfolded before the council in which one family, member by member, stood up with a single message: get off my lawn.
“What gives anybody the right to decide what’s on my property?” pleaded a gray-haired woman. “I own it. We have no interest in selling this. Ever. It’s a family farm. Please, I would ask that you take us out of the T.O.D. [transit-oriented development area].”
She was replaced by her husband, who stood uneasily as a dozen onlookers stared at his back.
“I’m not very comfortable doing this. But I’m going to because I feel so strongly about it,” he admitted.
“We do not want to sell or develop–at least not in my lifetime and certainly not in my kids’ lifetime. And it’s looking like not in the grandkids’ lifetime.”
Councilmember Clark Taylor fidgeted with his ring. The mayor folded his hands in front of him on the desk. The commenter sighed loudly into the microphone.
“If we could, we’d like to leave the city. We get nothing from the city. No sewer. No water. We don’t even get police protection. We never wanted to be part of the city. We were talked into it by the late mayor.”
He gazed into council members’ eyes and nodded to his wife.
“She grew up there watching her grandparents crawl up and down row crops on their hands and knees. Our kids have grown up there. This is home. It’s not just a piece of property.”
As the man turned on his heels and returned to a chair, Mayor Frost tugged on his microphone.
“I appreciate the decorum. I really do. You haven’t yelled or screamed, but we get your message and I appreciate it,” he said thankfully as the rest of the family–the daughter and the grandson–stepped forward.
“I’m fifth generation that’s lived on the farm. He’s sixth generation,” she said, clapping a hand on her son’s shoulder. “I have no desire to sell ever.”
With this family seemingly committed to guarding their compound to the death–and no one in the government itching to call for a raid by the National Guard–the council segued into other business. Although for a moment, it didn’t seem as if the theme had changed all that much.
“It was really one of those moments where you can say I’m proud to live in American Fork and I’m proud to live in America,” Mayor Frost recalled. “This last Saturday night, we welcomed home a soldier deployed to the Middle East. It was put out on Facebook and boy, did our citizens catch ahold of that!”
His voice was low and measured as he told of the heartwarming scene. “We ushered him in with emergency vehicles, and along Main Street people were holding flags. When he got home, there was 200 flags in his neighborhood. It was really special.”
The lesson here? A city is not just a collection of property. It’s a home. And I think the farm family would approve of that message.