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The City Journals

Contentious Murray residential projects green-lighted

Oct 04, 2021 01:57PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The Bullion Street development will include removing this satellite facility that sits on the property. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Perhaps it was the conflicting University of Utah football game, or maybe people were getting a start on Labor Day weekend, but two of the most contested residential development projects passed in a nearly empty planning commission meeting. The Bullion Street development project conditional use hearing at the Sept. 2 meeting took only a fraction of the time when the property was rezoned residential.

“I am surprised about the public turnout, but I guess that went a little bit smoother than we were anticipating,” Murray Planning Commissioner Maren Patterson said.

Residents around the Walden Ridge Subdivision bitterly contested the Hamlet Development proposal to develop an 8.6-acre site at 935 Bullion St. Initially, the Planning Commission was to deliberate on developer Michael Brodsky’s proposed changing the property’s land use to medium density in February. 

However, after the public notice was served, Brodsky met with neighbors at an open house to explain his plans regarding the site. Outcry concerning the potential construction of apartments in the center of a residential neighborhood caused Brodsky to reconsider his initial proposal.

Historically, the property sits on the site of the former Highland Boy smelter. That mill closed in a landmark environmental case in the early 1900s due to its emulsions. However, slag from the mill can still be seen on the property, and the soil remains contaminated with lead and arsenic. In the 1980s, US Satellite Corporation excavated a privacy berm and constructed a communications facility. 

Developers constructing neighborhoods around the property had to contend with cleaning up contaminated soil. The property, which is in a desirable location, has been on the market for a considerable time. Buyers, including Murray City, have passed at purchasing the lot based on environmental cleanup costs.

Brodsky, whose firm has cleaned up and developed other properties around Murray, such as the Birkhill at Fireclay project (4200 S. Main St.), believes that the most viable way to develop the property is by adding medium-density housing. 

At the April 1 planning commission meeting, the first public hearing of Brodsky’s reconfigured proposal, public pressure continued against the proposal. Before the vote, Brodsky tabled to rezone a portion of the property to R-1-6 (low density) and a part of the property to R-M-15 (medium density), and that doing so will limit the maximum density that anybody can build in this neighborhood.

At the May 6 Planning Commission meeting, after several hours of discussion and public input, the commission narrowly approved the proposals with changes amended to it to address traffic on Bullion Street. At the June 15 Murray City Council meeting, in an acrimonious atmosphere, the zoning proposal passed unanimously.

At the Sept. 2 Planning Commission meeting, a nearly empty chamber was present for Hamlet Developments’ conditional use permit to receive the green light to start their project officially. Only one email was received for the public hearing.

“I think everybody here expected 100 people here tonight,” Brodsky said. “Yeah, we’re surprised that there’s not a lot of public comment. Right now, I am really stunned.” 

The commission required 11 modifications to the Hamlet proposal, after which the permit passed by unanimous vote. The project, slated for 20 single-family and 54 townhomes, is scheduled to commence in November.

Less onerous but still generating a large amount of public input is the Ivory Home’s Murray Heights subdivision planned for the corner of 5400 South and 700 West and situated on a narrow angle of land between two busy roads and the Aspen Heights subdivision.

After initially planning three-story townhomes that would border the homes to the south, neighbors opposed the layout of the development. Unlike the contentious Bullion development, residents arranged for Ivory Homes to meet and discuss their concerns.

“Thanks to Rochelle White (Aspen Heights resident), I want to thank her publicly for kind of rallying the troops and organizing her neighbors. I think we had a really productive meeting on-site, and I was able to better understand the concerns of the neighbors to the south, which was very helpful,” Ivory Homes representative Brian Prince said.

Ivory Homes agreed to move most housing units off the borderline and instead buffer the property with an access road. 

Still problematic for the development is access into the subdivision. Residents can only enter the complex from the north on 700 West and exit to the south due to a traffic island designed by the Utah Department of Transportation. 

This traffic island has created traffic problems for people wanting to enter the shopping center at the intersection. Drivers unfamiliar with accessing the parking lot must drive around the traffic island and will use the Allendale subdivision’s driveways to turn around and access the center. 

Zac Smallwood of Murray City’s Community and Economic Development Division stated that he would talk to City Engineer Trae Stokes about addressing the issues caused by the traffic island. The planning commission voted unanimously to approve the project.