After a representative for the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration announced in April plans to bring a Love’s Travel Stop to SITLA land in southern Spanish Valley, many residents reacted with rage and displeasure at the idea, citing concerns with crime and pollution.
A meeting in May with Love’s representative Kym Van Dyke and SITLA representative Bryan Torgerson yielded more critical comments from local residents. As The Times-Independent later reported, not all residents who live on Sunny Acres Lane are unhappy with the idea, and some are even excited.
But Marlene Huckabay, whose backyard would be directly next to the truck stop if the plan goes through, recently told The Times-Independent that the plan was the “worst-case scenario” for her, and that she would rather have a landfill next to her house than a truck stop.
“It’s sad, alarming and disappointing,” Huckabay said, adding that it has been hard on her “heart and soul” to live with plans for a truck stop looming over her longtime residence.
Shortly after completing construction on her Spanish Valley home in 1994, Huckabay moved into the area at a time when zoning was wide open and largely unplanned. Huckabay said she moved in knowing she was near a commercial zone but not expecting to ever end up with a truck stop as a neighbor.
“I couldn’t stand to live by it,” Huckabay said of the planned truck stop.
Huckabay said that, if plans for the truck stop go through, she will likely turn the house into a short-term rental and move elsewhere, but she’s hoping to see a stop to development plans.
“I think if it were really a done deal, it would be in writing,” Huckabay said, noting that SITLA has not released any official announcement that a Love’s Travel Stop was imminent. “I don’t want to move; I like it here.”
Safety and pollution concerns
Huckabay said that her main concerns with living next to a truck stop relate to safety and pollution.
Highway traffic currently dominates the soundscape in Huckabay’s backyard, something she said is currently at a low enough din to ignore, and Love’s has released plans to install a wall between the truck stop and Sunny Acres Lane to mitigate the propagation of idling truck sounds.
Love’s has also said that it would comply with dark sky ordinances that the San Juan Planning Commission could soon put into place. The commission recently promised Spanish Valley residents passage of the new rules after a wave of backlash to the commission’s previous decision to set aside those rules.
However, despite the promises, Huckabay said that she fears that the light from the business, the sound of idling trucks and the smell of diesel, all of which could emanate mere yards from her house, would make the development impossible to ignore, particularly at night.
Huckabay added that she also worries about crime and security of her house, which will be directly adjacent to the project. SITLA has pushed back against stereotypes of truck drivers as “drug addicts and human traffickers,” but Huckabay said that she still fears that potential criminals might begin wandering her street at night if the Love’s is completed.
Officials react to pushback
For its part, Van Dyke said in a press release in May that the company would look to accommodate not just truck drivers but “motorists and local residents, too.”
Former San Juan County Administrator Kelly Pehrson said at the time that Love’s “has a solid reputation of creating a clean and friendly environment for each of its stores.” He also said the business would become a good neighbor to those who live nearby.
“Love’s does its very best to blend and assimilate into the local community,” Pehrson said.
Despite positive sentiments from elected and appointed officials in San Juan County, Grand County officials have been less warm to the idea of the truck stop. The Grand County Council voted in June to send a letter opposing the plan to a Love’s executive, noting the project is mere feet away from the county line.
“In the case of Love’s’ decision to create a large truck stop in the midst of a long-established residential area in Spanish Valley, we actively oppose it,” the letter read.