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Developer Ron Martinez wants to build apartments along... (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune )
A move by the Farmington City Council this fall to rezone several 1970s-era neighborhoods for single-family homes has triggered a rebuke by civil rights leaders.
Their fear: The Davis County community is trying to keep out poor people.
"We're concerned about the larger constitutional issues and policies behind what seems to be a move to push people out of the city," said Marina Lowe, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who wrote a letter to the council in October.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also wrote to Farmington City, raising similar objections.
Max Forbush, Farmington's city manager, was miffed by the letters, which he said were filled with bad information from a developer, Ron Martinez, who is suing the city over the council's rejection of his project near the FrontRunner station.
Martinez's company, America West Development, proposed a $25-million dollar project with apartments, offices, restaurant, credit union and trails near the FrontRunner station west of Interstate 15.
In August, the council rejected the plan partly because Martinez wanted higher-density housing than the council would allow.
Martinez said he contacted civil rights groups because the zoning changes are anti-apartment.
"It's a cleansing of zoning to disallow and

discourage apartments in Farmington," Martinez said.
But Forbush said the civil rights groups "shot from the hip."
"We've been mischaracterized and treated unfairly in some of the accusations. We're quite offended that they didn't bother to come and check the facts."
Several of the rezoned neighborhoods have covenants allowing only single-family homes, and there are few, if any, lots left, said city planner David Petersen. Even under the new zones, mother-in-law apartments are allowed as a conditional use in most cases, he said.
In her letter, Lowe said the ACLU was concerned about the effects of rezoning neighborhoods to disallow multifamily housing on low-income and elderly residents who often live in apartments.
"Particularly in light of the severe economic crisis that is plaguing our nation, there is a pressing need to ensure the availability of affordable housing in our communities in Utah," she wrote.
Lowe also said the ACLU was disturbed by a comment of Planning Commission Chairman Kevin Poff at a September meeting.
"Statements such as 'The only thing Farmington hates more than renters is poor people' demonstrate a blatant discrimination and prejudicial attitude toward low-income residents," Lowe wrote in her letter to the city.
Forbush described Poff's comment as "tongue-in-cheek," and Petersen said it was taken out of context. It did not occur in any discussion about the rezoning or about affordable housing, Petersen said.
Poff could not be reached for comment.
Mayor Scott Harbertson said Poff's comment may have been "in jest" and does not reflect Farmington City's view.
But Lowe said Poff's comment is "problematic" - whether it was sincere or a joke about his community.
Petersen said Farmington has "a very diverse housing stock" and is planning for much more multifamily housing in the hundreds of acres around the FrontRunner station.
His staff is working on a plan to bring more-affordable housing to the community, and soon will propose that the City Council tweak the zoning codes to allow "ancillary" uses in all single-family homes.
Under that change, anyone 65 and older could convert part of his or her home into a dwelling for another person or small family, Harbertson said.
"It does two things: It has the ability to help those with lower incomes and it helps seniors on fixed incomes."