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The City Journals

AJ Rock site plan draws near to final recommendation

Sep 08, 2020 01:55PM ● By Zak Sonntag

Map of AJ Rock site plan location. (Courtesy Cottonwood Heights planning documents)

By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]

Holladay residents are voicing concerns with a proposed AJ Rock redevelopment proposal in Cottonwood Heights, at 6995 S. Wasatch Blvd., which would be the first realized acreage of the city’s larger Gravel Pit Area Master Plan.

If approved, the 21-acre mixed-use development will consist of 10 buildings, including a hotel, business offices, retail stores, along condominiums and apartment buildings. The proposal has upset some local residents, and promises to impact communities beyond Cottonwood Heights, albeit, particularly in the abutting City of Holladay, where members are expressing worry that the project will degrade their quality of life.

“My wife and I live on 6200 South and the traffic going east and west on 6200 (South) is already unmanageable. Lots of cars and trucks going all day,” said Charles Archer in a letter to the planning commission. “You folks need to scale this development back about 80%. Don’t further compromise the quality of life in the South Holladay area.” 

Traffic concerns have elicited many complaints, both with regard to travel volume on 6200 South and Wasatch Boulevard. Residents are also worried that accessibility may prove insufficient, as the design does not include additional signalized ingress or egress points directly off Wasatch Boulevard, which UDOT prohibits at this specific location out of concern for other conditions.

Those most upset by the proposal are residents of Canyon Cove, a community of single-family homes abutting the development to the north, who fear their views and peace will be compromised by the plan.

“While residing in Canyon Cove for the last 25 years, we have seen the area surrounding our neighborhood become highly developed, with increasing traffic on Wasatch Boulevard at trailheads. The AJ Rock proposed development would contribute greatly to a loss of the characteristics that brought us to Holladay, with excessive noise, congestion, and pollution, especially in combination with a planned transportation hub to the south of [the proposed development],” wrote Charles and Susan Ayers in a letter to the commission.

However, city officials see the site as a long-term benefit to both communities. The AJ Rock development is part of the larger Wasatch Boulevard Gravel Pit Area Master Plan, which will replace the current pit operation with a host of new opportunities, city officials assert in the Plan, authored and approved in 2016. 

The Plan’s executive summary argues that Cottonwood Heights struggles in achieving ideal job-housing ratios, which demographers and planning experts say needs to be between 1.5 and 1.7 jobs per household, according the American Planning Association.

Cottonwood Heights “is low on jobs‐housing balance with 1.17 jobs per household currently. Therefore, the gravel pit site represents an opportunity to create more employment options for Cottonwood Heights residents,” states the executive summary. 

The City of Holladay’s jobs-housing ratio is even lower.

By providing more homes in the region, the development can help take pressure off burgeoning demand for new residences and slow the runaway rise in the cost of housing, while also attempting to accommodate current lifestyles with things like “buffered bike lanes” on Wasatch Boulevard, and walkable environs replete with native landscape trails, and pedestrian and bicycle pathways connecting different areas of the development.

The Plan also addresses a perceived shortage of lodging, which can drive visitors into family neighborhoods in search of short-term rentals. The city also hopes to eventually relieve canyon congestion with a “transportation-hub” that will siphon passenger vehicles off the limited roadways. 

Although the grand design is a long way off.

The Gravel Pit Area Master Plan city’s vision for the zone will be built out piecemeal; for now the AJ Rock development portion is the only acreage on the verge of action, and the planning commission has yet to approve the site plan. Commissioners have asked developers to refine their proposal to meet the zones expected standards for Affordable Housing, parking, and detailed plans for the ongoing maintenance associated with the site.

Still, many Holladay residents believe the project invites unsolicited fiscal burdens, and they are miffed about having little power over a process with vast implications for their community.

“The infrastructure costs will lie at the feet of all Holladay residents while Cottonwood Heights reaps all of the tax benefits. What about increased routine road maintenance? What about the increase in vehicular/pedestrian accidents on Wasatch Boulevard?” said Holladay resident Kara Haley in an email to the City Journals.