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The City Journals

After last-minute changes, council moves development of old Granite High property forward

Apr 22, 2019 03:59PM ● By Bill Hardesty

On March 27, the South Salt Lake City Council passed the ordinance creating the Granite Townhome district and the Granite Library district on the former Granite High School property. (Courtesy of Salt Lake County Library)

By Bill Hardesty |[email protected]

Thirteen is lucky when it comes to the Granite Townhomes/County Library zoning change ordinance that was passed by the South Salt Lake City Council on March 27.

The city council passed version 13 of the ordinance. The Planning Commission recommended for approval version 11 on March 7. However, a version 12 was presented to the city council at the beginning of their meeting. 

As reported earlier, after much work by the applicant, city staff and the planning commission, an ordinance creating two special districts (Granite Townhomes and Granite Library) was forwarded to the city council with a recommendation to pass the ordinance. This zone change allows Wasatch Residential Group (WRG) to build 113 townhomes on the northeast area of the former Granite High School property and to sell five acres to Salt Lake County for a new state-of-the-art library on the northwest side. This was step one of a long process before ground is broken.

In between the planning commission action and the next week city council meeting, WRG asked for “minor” changes which were incorporated into the ordinance creating version 12. However, on the day of the city council meeting, WRG sent additional changes. The staff didn’t have time to analyze and incorporate them into version 12. The changes requested were worked out during the city council meeting.

March 27 city council meeting

With Adam Lankford of WRG at the presenter’s table and Alex White, director of community development at the podium, the city council laboriously worked through the eight changes in the evening work meeting and regular meeting.

“Our concern is that we set a high standard for townhomes. We should be stepping up rather than stepping back,” White began the process.

Lankford countered with, “This is already an upscale project and it is a win, win, win for us, the city, residents and the county.”

The first request centered around the placement of front doors on corner units. SSLC code requires the doors to face a street. The applicant explained that current design would not allow the door placement to change and felt that the wraparound patios on those units would fulfill the goal of the code.

The second request was about the use and amount of enhanced cabinets and countertops. The applicant only wants granite countertops to be required in the kitchen allowing home buyers to customize their units. The code requires granite countertops throughout the unit.

The third change wanted to eliminate the requirement of a clear transition between townhomes. Both agreed that the design as proposed with facade articulation fulfills the code requirement. However, the applicant pushed to include the black and white renderings in the ordinance for further clarification.

At this point, Councilman Shane Siwik (District 5) commented on the distrust between the development community and the city. 

Deputy City Attorney Hannah Vickery replied that such distrust was a misconception and this work is required “due to the lateness of the requested changes.” 

Councilman Mark Kindred tried to push for a conclusion by saying, “I am okay with all of the changes.” Councilwoman Corey Thomas (District 2) seconded Kindred’s remark.

However, the meeting continued discussing the fourth request about the amount of stucco. City code specifies the maximum amount at 20 percent. The applicant wanted 45 percent. Lankford said that stucco gave the project an urban feel and works with the design plans. He also said, “I want to do a quality project. Stucco does not mean a poor development.”

The next request was about the amount of transparency required on walls facing public roads. The current code requires the same amount of transparency (e.g., doors, windows) on walls facing public roads as on other primary facades. The applicant was asking for a reduction on the amount. After some discussion, the applicant agreed to remove their request.

The sixth request was about the number of architectural features on garage facades. Since the applicant wants a “clean and urban look,” the design has garage doors facing each other. This allows the townhomes to face a green court. SSLC code requires at least two elements (e.g., window, lights, trellis) be incorporated into the design of facades with garage doors. The applicant was concerned that these elements “didn’t fit into our design.”

The seventh request was about balconies and the placement of trash dumpsters. The current design has balconies only on townhomes facing 3300 South. The applicant felt balconies elsewhere “is not a good design element for the green courts.” The code also required that no dumpsters be against property lines adjacent to single-family residential areas. The current design has them placed at the end of turnarounds at the end of road. The applicant agreed to include balconies on all units facing the proposed library.

The final request was to have two signs at each entrance. Current code only allows one per development. Vickery suggested, “The code should be updated to allow two signs.”  

Generally, the council voiced minor concern about one request or another. However, two comments are worth noting.

Councilman Ray deWolfe said the council needed “to trust staff.” 

Later, Kindred responded, “On this project, I don’t think we can trust staff.”

In addition, Siwik voiced his frustration with the process by saying, “I am fine with it all. Why are we stuck in the minutiae? Let the market decide.”

After the short discussion, Deputy City Attorney Vickery, City Council Attorney Douglas Ahlstrom and the applicant along with his attorney were excused to write the specific ordinance language. Meanwhile, the city council took up other business.

The ordinance

After some time, the attorneys returned with version 13. It was presented to the council with the following changes:

  • The side facade of townhome units facing a road will not be required to have a front door.
  • Stone or quartz countertops throughout each unit.
  • Balconies on townhomes facing 3300 South and the library.
  • Black and white elevations were added to the ordinance clarifying the amount of transition between townhomes.
  • No language about dumpsters and no change in the size of turnarounds.
  • Stucco allowed on the front and back as designed.
  • Elements will be added on garage doors.
  • Signs at each public entrance.

The council approved the ordinance 7-0 on a roll call vote. Step 2 of many steps is completed.

Councilwoman Sharla Bynum (District 3) thanked the staff and observed, “they are following code.”

Mayor Cherie Wood added that her staff, “put other projects on hold in order to get this done.” She also added, “I will not order my staff to the look the other way.”