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The City Journals

General Plan amendment and re-zone creates split vote

Jul 25, 2017 10:41AM ● By Cassie Goff

The Cottonwood Heights City Council usually votes unanimously on all ordinances and resolutions. (Kari Sikorski)

By Cassie Goff  |  [email protected]

Every other Tuesday in Cottonwood Heights, the city council votes on a variety of resolutions and ordinances during the council’s business meetings. There is rarely a vote that is not unanimous. Some attribute the uniformity to the mayor, while some attribute it to how well the council discusses issues and works collectively.  During the business meeting on June 27, one vote was not unanimous, which has not occurred in years.

The Ordinance was 273. There are two versions of this ordinance: A, which would approve a General Plan amendment to Milne Lane, and D, which would deny the General Plan amendment. These ordinances considered “the city’s general plan to change the land use of the property at 7380 South Milne Lane and 1314 East Milne Lane from RR-1-21 (rural residential density) to R-1-15 (residential low density).”

Zone RR-1-21 is designated as “land use reserved for large lot (potentially with animal rights) residential development. Clustering may be allowed within this land use to preserve rural character, sensitive open space, or community parks.”

Zone R-1-15 states “land use is reserved for low-density residential. The majority of the city is currently considered low-density residential, between 2.5 and five (5) dwelling units per acre.”

The property of consideration encompassed 6.4 acres south of Milne Lane. The property already had some constraints with an existing creek and relative drainage issues.

Before this ordinance could be evaluated by the Cottonwood Heights City Council, the application for the rezone and amendment had to go through the planning commission. They discussed this issue during their meeting on May 3.

Much of their discussion focused on findings from a staff analysis provided by Senior Planner Mike Johnson.

“In the residential rural density land use category, the RR-1-21 zoning designation allows a maximum residential density of up to 2 units per acre and requires a minimum residential lot size of 0.5 acre. Analysis by staff finds that of the 260 nearby properties surveyed, 145 are less than 0.5 acres in size. While some of these still exceed the general densities recommended for the residential low density land use designation, the analysis concludes that the character of the surrounding area is in line with a slightly higher density than the residential rural density land use designation provides for.”

City staff members believed that this property, as well as some of the surrounding properties, would fall more in line with an R-1-15 zone than the current RR-1-21 zone.

“The likely explanation is that the lots were created and subdivided under prior zoning restrictions in Salt Lake County prior to city incorporation, and those lots became legal non-conforming lots upon incorporation. Because there is no zoning designation between RR-1-21 and R-1-15, the most suitable zoning designation for those properties, if they were created under today’s zoning ordinance, would be R-1-15,” Johnson explained.

However, the city staff found that changing the land use designation from residential rural density to residential low density was compatible and would “preserve the area of the surrounding area, and meet the first goal of the General Plan’s land use element.” The Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission recommended denial for this proposal.

“The planning commission didn’t feel that a land use amendment was necessary for what the applicant desired for the property. They also didn’t feel that the applicant did enough to sell their proposal,” Community and Economic Development Director Brian Berndt told the city council in June.

“Access was a big point of discussion,” Berndt continued. “Most of the public comments were from residents of Milne Lane. They don’t want access. Development would need construction access on Milne Lane.”

 “The applicant would use Milne Lane only for temporary construction access to build a bridge on the west side of the property, then Milne would only be for gated emergency situations,” Johnson said.

The applicant, Andrew Flamm, reported to the council as well. “I used to camp out as a Scout on this property, and we bought it in the early 2000s. The other side of the property is commercially rezoned already. Residents do not want trucks on Milne Lane. We would pave the lane and alleviate some of those issues. It would be a short-term pain to get there. Other options would be to connect to Milne Lane, which defeats the purpose.”

Before the final vote on June 27, Councilman Mike Shelton commented, “I don’t ever want to contradict the planning commission. So it is with significant reservation that I will contradict them. The property is in character with the neighborhood. It makes sense to see it developed in this way.”

Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore agreed with Shelton. “I have great respect for the planning commission, and it’s with a lot of thought that I vote contrary. It’s a fundamental difference of opinion. As a council, our responsibility is to find legitimate reasons to deny land owners use of the land. There is not a significant reason to deny this application.”

Councilman Scott Bracken was the only “nay” vote. “I agree with the planning commission. It is what it is,” he said.