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The City Journals

City council green lights 32 new Taylorsville apartments through unique agreement

Apr 23, 2019 02:56PM ● By Carl Fauver

Two new 16-unit apartment buildings are expected to soon be built on this open acreage, southeast of Walmart in Taylorsville. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Calling it a “win-win situation,” the Taylorsville Planning Commission — and its city adviser, Community Development Director Mark McGrath — dug deep into their bag of zoning tricks to authorize construction of much-needed housing in the city, while also acquiring valuable land for the city, next to the Taylorsville Senior Center and Food Pantry.

“In my 25 years with the city, this is the first time we have struck an agreement quite like this,” McGrath said. “It accomplishes a couple of important things. First, we will see 32 new apartment units built in the city, which we desperately need due to the housing crisis. And second, the city receives a valuable parcel of land, next to the senior center.”

It’s impossible to explain this transaction without going deep into the planning and zoning weeds. 

The owners of Thornhill Park Apartments (1600 West 5650 South) have long wanted to build two, 16-unit apartment buildings on 1.9 acres of land, east of their existing 232 units, south of Walmart. However, the existing buildings were constructed before Taylorsville was incorporated. The housing unit density Thornhill has now is more than current city code allows.

“When Taylorsville was incorporated (in 1996), one of the big issues was apartment density,” McGrath said. “The existing number of apartments per acre (at Thornhill, approved by Salt Lake County), is 17.5 — which far exceeds our limit of 12 units per acre. They were ‘grandfathered’ into compliance as the city was incorporated, just like many other apartment complexes in the city. But for years, we have told the developers ‘no’ to additional construction, because the apartment density they wanted was too much.”

However, now that the need for affordable housing in Taylorsville has become so acute, city officials are feeling more pressure to “work with” apartment developers.

“What we ended up doing is something that has been done in Park City and other locations but not here in Taylorsville,” McGrath said. “We have allowed Thornhill Park developers to purchase land several blocks away to give to the city and to apply the zoning requirements on that other property to be applied to the acreage they want to develop.”

The long and short of it is, the city picks up 1.9 acres of land near its senior center and food pantry, while the developers are now allowed to exceed the city’s apartment unit density limits on the acreage on which they plan to build.

“Along with the apartment units, the developers will also include 40 new parking stalls,” McGrath said. “We would not have allowed this if neighbors in the area had complained. But no issues were raised (during a public hearing), and we saw it as a way to get more apartments in the city while also preserving some of the rare open land we still have in Taylorsville."

The unusual agreement was approved unanimously by both the Taylorsville Planning Commission and the Taylorsville City Council.

“I like the plan because it allows the planning commission to be proactive and not reactive,” said commission member and former chairwoman Lynette Wendel. “The planning commission carefully reviewed the proposal to make sure the quality of the development would be maximized.”

“This gives us such a valuable asset with the addition of that park property (next to the senior center),” Councilman Ernest Burgess said. “Plus, the developers have shown us plans of how their new construction will match their current buildings. And it will give us some critically needed new apartments in the city.”

All 32 of the new apartments will be two-bedroom units, larger than nearly all of Thornhill Park’s existing apartments.

As for the nearly 2 acres now being acquired by city leaders, there are no firm plans for it yet. But McGrath has some ideas.

“Since it is right next to the Taylorsville Senior Center, it might be the perfect place for playground equipment especially designed for seniors,” he said. “That is becoming more and more popular across the country, but we don’t have any of it in any of our city parks now.”

A groundbreaking date for the new apartments was not announced.