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Approval of 20 new townhomes frustrates Richards Street residents

Jul 27, 2017 11:14AM ● Published by Travis Barton

Developer Armando Alvarez speaks to the city council during a June meeting. (Travis Barton/City Journals)forthcoming…

Gallery: new townhomes [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

Despite opposition from neighbors, a new townhome development will be built along West Temple Street at about 3200 South.

 The South Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved an ordinance in June that grants a planned unit development (PUD) over the existing zone of commercial general. It will see 20 townhomes built on .8 acres of property.  

 Though it was unanimous, the approval came with reluctance from several city council members after discussions took place over three separate city council meetings.

 Neighbors along Richards Street, a dead-end street off 3300 South that leads up to the property, vigorously opposed the development stating concerns about parking and traffic. They preferred to have a park built there instead.

 Councilman Shane Siwik publicly apologized to the residents saying he did not like the development that it was “too dense for the neighborhood,” but “the developer had met the legal requirement” based on current zoning and city codes.

 “I don’t see any choice,” Siwik said. “We have to follow the ordinances and the laws the way that they are and if there was any opportunity I could find to deny this, I would.”

 In a letter from a Richards Street resident read aloud by Councilwoman Sharla Beverly, the resident stated this “was not the right place for this type of high- density development” pointing out Richards Street is basically a “one-lane road” while West Temple is only two lanes.

 “This is a small plot of land, 20 townhomes will destroy our quality of life,” the letter read. “I understand that this land may be developed, but not with this type of high- density housing.”

 A second letter read by Beverly from various Richards Street neighbors suggested the city keep the land as open space and turn it into a park.

 “The city needs to slow down the infestation of high- density projects and keep more open spaces,” the second letter read.

 Armando Alvarez, the developer with American Housing Partners overseeing the acquisition of the property, said the total impact of the development along that street is equivalent of two houses.

 JC Wayman lives on Richards Street directly across from the proposed townhome development. He said the impact would exceed two houses because there would be “20 families” moving into those units meaning parking would overflow onto his street.

 Originally, the development included two access points from Richards Street causing much consternation from residents for the increase in parking and traffic.

 Developers hoped to alleviate concerns and congestion by having only one pedestrian access point and a gate for emergency vehicles and garbage collection once a week.

 But residents said that visitors to the townhome complex would still park on Richards Street, a street they feel is too narrow to support more parking. According to a title company utilized by the city, the street is 32 feet wide between fence lines. 

 Wayman said the townhome residents will have guests and believes none will park along West Temple and instead park on his street.

 “If the gate was blocked and they didn’t actually have access then they wouldn’t park on our street. That would make a huge difference,” Wayman said.

 Alvarez told the council he felt this type of development was what the city wanted. With a TRAX station nearby, he said the city will building increasing their population in a zone with public transportation. He said this means people will drive less, favoring the public transportation.

 Alvarez also said he had compromised to help minimize impact.

 “We have honestly tried to be good neighbors to the residents understanding they are going to be impacted, and we have tried to make that impact the absolute least amount possible, and I think we’ve achieved that,” he said.

 The development met all guidelines required by the city codes making it difficult for the council to recommend denial. It was something Geri Wayman, who lives at the same place as JC, wants to see changed.

 “It is very difficult to accept what’s going on,” she told the city council. “I know that changes happen all the time, but it would be really nice at some point if you could change the code. Why overbuild and make such a hard time for everyone to park?”

 She continued, “It would be awesome if the code could be changed a little bit and not overbuild so much. I love South Salt Lake, I have lived here my whole life, and I would like to see you guys take a little empathy with how we feel.” 

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