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The City Journals

First domino falls as townhomes, library move closer

Mar 22, 2019 10:38AM ● By Bill Hardesty

A preliminary design for the new library. (Courtesy of Salt Lake Library)

By Bill Hardesty |[email protected]

At the end of the March 7 South Salt Lake Planning Commission meeting both the audience and commissioners cheered and clapped. The commission had recommended approval of the revised ordinance amending the general plan concerning the north 11.6 acres of the Granite High School property.

The recommendation and future passing of the ordinance by the city council, which could occur at their next meeting on March 27, is only the first step in a three-step process to make the Granite Townhomes and a new library a reality.

Right before the voice vote, Commissioner Jeremy Carter said, “The information shared in this meeting and the action taken tonight shows what can happen when the applicant and city staff work together. Thank you. Everyone has smiles.”

Previous meeting

At a previous working meeting and regular planning commission meeting both held on Feb. 21, the Community Development staff presented their analysis. In addition, public comments were also taken at the regular meeting.

As Alex White, planning division manager, worked through the presentation many unanswered questions arose. In addition, some information was needed. The Wasatch Residential Group (the applicant), the Salt Lake County Library, and the city agreed to meet in the following two weeks to resolve issues surrounding the eight considerations presented by the city staff.

For each consideration, the concerns from the Feb. 21 meeting are reviewed below and how they were jointly resolved in the presentation on March 7.

Consideration #1 – Traffic

This consideration focused on two issues. How would the proposed developments impact the traffic and if there is a need for a right turn lane on 500 East. 

While two Traffic Impact Studies (TIS) were done as of Feb. 27, neither combined the impact of the library, Granite Townhomes and Granite Legacy developments. A third study was commissioned looking at all three developments and the preliminary results show the impact are within acceptable standards. 

The new study looked at Millcreek and 500 East (Service Level A), 500 East and 3300 South (Service Level C – like it is today), and 3300 South and 700 East (Service Level E – like it is today). Service Levels are a qualitative measure way to look how traffic flows. The ratings go from A (free flows) to F (traffic jam).

On Feb. 21, there was concern about building a right turn lane on 500 East resulting in removing approximately 11 of the 110-year-old trees. The third TIS indicates the queue length at peak time would be about 250 feet (roughly 10 cars), which is acceptable. 

“I don’t see a reason for the right turn lane,” said Dennis Pay, city engineer. He also said, “Yes, there will be impacts but not significant ones.” 

Consideration #2 – Design standards

During the Feb. 21 meeting, this topic was well discussed. There were differing opinions how current design standards apply to the development. After two weeks of work, an agreement on exceptions to current design standards were agreed upon for both the townhomes and library.

The exceptions for the townhomes include a minimum of 20 percent open space, enhanced sound proofing between units, 9-foot-high ceilings, upgraded counter tops and cabinetry, recreational amenities, decks and patios that wrap around end units, upgraded brick and stone, no vinyl or aluminum siding, and a maximum height of 42 feet.

The exceptions for the library include a minimum of 30 percent open space, significant gateway emphasis at the corner of 500 East and 3300 South, minimum floor area of 29,500 square feet, minimum lot street frontage of 300 feet, maximum structure height of 42 feet and minimum of 20 feet, exterior materials shall be brick, concrete block, stone or marble, stucco may not exceed 20 percent of the façade, minimum 40 percent windows on each façade, minimum 70 percent transparency of all street level windows, and a book drop-off location.

Consideration #3 – Site design and layout

In between the meetings, Wasatch Residential Group, Salt Lake County Library, and the city revised the ordinance requirements. These revisions break down into three groups (trail/sidewalk/fitness trail, second access off 3300 South, and storm water management).

A 10-foot sidewalk and 8-foot parking strip along 3300 South will elongate the existing Millcreek Trail. A 10-foot fitness trail will encircle the library preserving the historical recreational use of Granite High School.

The applicant has proposed a second access off 3300 South to meet public safety concerns and help with traffic within the townhomes. This second access is subject to UDOT approval. In case UDOT does not approve the second access, the county library has agreed to allow open access to the proposed emergency access between the parking lot and the townhomes.

Even though the applicant has not provided grading and drainage plans for the project, they are aware of the ordinance requirements. The Planning Commission will have to approve such plans during the subdivision plat as phase 2 of the application.

Consideration #4 – Condo capable

Even though Wasatch Residential Group’s primary business is development of rental properties, they have agreed to make the townhomes condo capable, which will allow individual purchasing and selling. 

This consideration was mentioned during the public hearing on Feb. 21. Penny Choedon, a future resident of the Granite Legacy neighborhood, pointed out that South Salt Lake has a 62 percent rental rate and she urged leaders to promote home ownership. This concession by Wasatch Resident Group will do just that.

Consideration #5 – Permitted use or conditional use

During the Feb. 21 meeting and the March 7 meeting, the city staff recommended the library be given a permitted use permit. However, during the first meeting the county library asked that Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CEPTED) requirements be removed from the ordinance. This was acceptable since the current CEPTED requirements found in Title 17.21 (what can be put on a property) applies.

Consideration #6 – Granite High School memorabilia

In the first meeting, there was a lot of unknowns about how much memorabilia there is and how much should it be incorporated in the library. The county recommended an 8-foot by 8-foot display case not including the Granite High School seal or “the rock.” The staff and commissioners were concern that this was not adequate.

The city has now asked the county to house and manage all memorabilia owned by the city and the Granite School District. In turn, the county has asked that details of such an arrangement be done in a separate agreement.

Consideration #7 – Paying homage to Granite High in design characteristics

Even though preliminary drawings were shown during the first meeting, some commissioners were struggling seeing the Granite High School homage in the design.

In the March 7 meeting, Rob Beishline, primary architect from MethodStudio walked through a more detailed presentation. The theme is to “Honor the Past – Look to the Future.” On the south façade, they have taken a great deal of effort to match the color of the high school’s brick. There are vertical columns of different widths reminiscent of Granite. The column tops are not capped but are staggered like it was at Granite. 

Regarding the future, the library’s north façade will be a wall of glass providing a welcoming view. The west side will also have windows, but also shading fins that will reduce the glare of the setting sun.

Consideration #8 – Parking

In both meetings, there was little discussion about parking. Both designs meet current parking regulations. However, a technical review by the city will need to be done during the building permit process.

Dominos are starting to fall

With the approval recommendation from the Planning Commission the first domino has fallen. Once the ordinance is approved by the city council, Wasatch Residential Group will execute the purchase contract with the Granite School District. Once that has closed, they will execute the purchase agreement between themselves and Salt Lake County Library. It appears the projects are on their way.