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Ute Car Wash Empty for Too Long

Apr 08, 2016 09:58AM ● Published by Natalie Mollinet

By Natalie Mollinet | natalie@mycityjournals.com

Sugar House - The Ute Car Wash — well, the remains of it — sits along 2100 South and Windsor Street and only half of the building has been demolished. The lot is vacant and because of an illegal start of demolition done by the owner over a year ago, the remnants have continued to sit there.  

Because the demolition started illegally, the owner wasn’t allowed to finish the demolition, leaving the job half done. According to Amy Barry, the chair of the Sugar House Community Council, the owner of the property doesn’t plan on getting a permit to demolish the rest of the structure. 

“The only requirement is that this owner put up a fence and keep weeds down,” Barry said. “The Ute Car Wash has been half demolished for long enough.” 

According to the city demolition ordinance, property owners and developers are expected to tear down any building on their own, but there are no expectations for someone to tear down their buildings if it was done illegally, so the remains continue to sit with a chain-link fence around it. 

To get a demolition permit in Salt Lake County requires six different items: a water disconnection letter, a sewer disconnection letter, an electrical disconnection letter, a gas disconnection letter, a letter of approval from the Utah Division of Air Quality and a letter of approval from the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. On top of getting all those, there is a cost to get a permit to tear down anything. 

“The city ordinance requires that a demolition post a bond for landscaping,” Matthew Rojas, director of communication in the mayor’s office, said. “The city doesn’t want brown spaces after demolition.” 

According to the new ordinance, if an owner of a property wants to tear down a structure, they will need to post a bond and have a plan going forward, meaning having something they are going to build after they tear down the current building. 

“A lot of people don’t know what their plan is going to be; they think that an empty lot allows for more vision,” Councilmember Lisa Adams said. 

Adams has been working to change the ordinance and said that the Ute Car Wash isn’t the only place in Salt Lake that needs help — there are multiple areas that are just sitting there because the ordinance makes it hard for property owners to do anything about them. 

“We are addressing it and we’re moving forward,” Adams said. “It’s a psychological problem. Do we prefer partially torn down structures or empty lots? This is what brought about this demolition ordinance.” 

Nothing can be done to tear down the rest of the Ute Car Wash until the property owner goes through the right channels to get the demolition permit, and the city can’t do anything about it because it’s private property. The current ordinance creates a loophole for business owners, but there isn’t a solution to get anything done, and owners can sit on their property for a long time and not do anything about it. 

In her March newsletter, Adams said she had met with two members of the Sugar House Community Council along with the head of the Building Services Division and the interim director of community and economic development. In the meeting, they discussed the challenge in finding a balance between respecting private ownership rights and community expectations. 

“We’re trying to find a solution,” Adams said. “Because none of us are happy with it, including the guy that owns the property.” 

The city council is working on an ordinance to make not only members of the community happy, but government members and property owners, as well. Adams said she hopes the new ordinance will come into play by the end of 2016.  

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