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Francis officials explain unsafe intersection

By supporting a referendum in November voters in Francis could overturn a decision to abandon part of Hill Top Road because it is dangerous for motorists turning onto State Road 32.

"It’s very hard to see what’s coming up there," Francis Town Councilman John Keyes said.

To help accommodate a 61-home development the Francis Town Council voted 3-2 in February to vacate part of Hill Top Road.

Mayor John Bergen says he cast the deciding vote in favor of the proposal because, he agrees, the intersection poses a hazard for drivers.

"Our attorney says that we’re exposing ourselves to a liability," Bergen said.

The intersection of Hill Top Road and S.R. 32 should be closed according to traffic studies and the Utah Department of Transportation, the mayor added.

"The potential for increased traffic has also precipitated us to do something about it," Bergen said. "Even if the referendum passes we still have to do something."

Because of the angle at which Hill Top Road connects to S.R. 32 drivers turning onto the highway have limited visibility, said Keyes, who voted to relocate the intersection.

"We will still have Hill Top Road, but it will come back onto [S.R. 32] north of the intersection of [S.R. 32], [S.R. 35] and Spring Hollow Road," Keyes said about plans to move the intersection about 2,000 feet farther north.

Should the referendum be defeated the developer would construct a 20-foot-wide trail along the abandoned stretch of road for ranchers to move cattle, he said.

"We have had two traffic studies done on it, one in 1994 with the Wild Willow development and one they completed in February," Keyes said. "We are increasing the safety of the people using that intersection."

But he acknowledges that, "there are a lot of people against it."

Lee Snelgrove encourages Francis residents to overturn the decision of the Town Council by supporting a ballot referendum next November.

"We want to be rural and we want kids to be able to have their space," Snelgrove said concerned that this development fight is one of many that will take place in Francis in the next decade.

Meanwhile, Francis resident Kristi Major, who supports the referendum, claims UDOT has called the intersection "problematic" not dangerous.

"This closure has only become an issue since this new development," Major said.

Kamas resident David Ure, a former state representative, is against the plan because as a dairy rancher in the area Ure moves cattle along Hill Top Road, Bergen said.

The historic road skirts the southern edge of Francis near the Provo River and hundreds of potential home sites in the Kamas Valley. The proximity of the dangerous intersection to the nearby Victory Ranch, a large equestrian community, helped justify closing part of the road, Keyes said, adding that a developer in Francis will pay to help relocate Hill Top Road.

"As the traffic increases then the potential for an accident increases," he said.

Keyes insists the change won’t greatly inconvenience motorists.

But the intersection at issue will still exist to serve a handful of homes in Francis, objects Francis resident John Barclay.

"They’re leaving it open because there are six houses," Barclay said.

Snelgrove added, "one of their issues is that the intersection is unsafe."

But fewer drivers using the corner could reduce the number of crashes, said Alison Weyher, a Francis planner.

"It doesn’t take too bad of an accident to cause a lot of property damage and result in death," she said.

Major contends that moving Hill Top Road will result in more traffic being diverted through the Wild Willow subdivision.

"We have no sidewalks, those kids are in the street which is the way we wanted it to be," Major said.

Francis voters appear poised to decide Nov. 6 whether to abandon part of Hill Top Road.

"We want the citizens to be able to be informed and have a vote to say we agree or do not agree," said Snelgrove, who hopes citizens will overturn the decision from the council.


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