Skip to main content

The City Journals

Buhler changes fellow councilmember’s mind as storage unit proposal denied

Nov 18, 2021 03:01PM ● By Travis Barton

A map of the awkwardly shaped property with three different projects, all of different zoning, but built prior to 1965 when the area was officially zoned. (West Valley City documents)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

After a tie vote over a zone change in August that would have seen storage units built at approximately 4300 South and 4000 West, the West Valley City Council then voted to deny the request 5-2 at the following council meeting in September. 

The property in question is unique in that it has a triplex, 12-unit mobile home park and 12 storage units located there. All three projects, according to county records, were built prior to 1965 when zoning was first adopted. Now all three don’t conform with its existing zoning—single unit residential with minimum 8,000 square feet. 

During the initial council meeting, the vote ended in a 3-3 tie after Councilmember Steve Buhler had to leave early. The split came down to those who wished to hold out for something better in the future. 

Both Councilmembers Karen Lang and Jake Fitisemanu Jr. felt the storage unit development would not be the best use for the property and they could hold out for something better suited to the neighborhood. Lang added whatever they approve could last 50 years. 

Councilmembers Lars Nordfelt and Don Christensen both felt this would be an improvement on the current property with Christensen saying that ignoring the issue and hoping it improves would not be a good solution. 

Mayor Ron Bigelow pointed to their lack of control over how a property develops until someone approaches the city with a proposal. 

The proposal, property owner Brian Pitcher said, is borne out of a desire to improve the properties he owns “making them better for the community.” 

“Right now, my hands are kind of tied,” Pitcher told the council at the September meeting. “I can’t really do much with it because all of my current uses are not in actual zoning for what this property is. That’s why I proposed something that would work, which is the storage unit complex.”

Pitcher said he doesn’t see another use that makes sense without a zone change, noting he doesn’t have plans to sell in the near future. 

“I’d like to better the area and the community,” he said. 

At the September meeting, Buhler said that if he were to vote in favor of a zone change, it would need to be something special. 

“It has to be something that we are happy to see come into the city, not just something that is incrementally better than what’s there now,” he said. “We don’t know what some other buyer, what some other developer would want to do there and what their vision would be. And it might just be something that’s special that we’d change the zoning for.”

What Buhler said was enough to change one councilmember’s mind. 

“Mr. Buhler has convinced me that we should be looking for more from this property,” Nordfelt said, urging Pitcher to find a way to improve the property with the current parameters. 

Bigelow pointed out the council can only approve or deny what’s in front of them. While they can encourage the property owner, they can’t tell them what to do with their property. 

“I just don’t see this as something we or I want to do and would be proud of when I drive up and down that road,” Buhler said.