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Draper 'barracks' called 'nauseating'

Planners may require new design standards

Published: Wednesday, April 13 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Look-alike town homes on South Mountain annoy some Draper residents.

Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

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DRAPER — Stacks of town homes have some Draper residents worried that cookie-cutter condos will edge out open space and good taste on the valley's South Mountain.

Labeled "the barracks" by many residents, the rows upon rows of apartments, condos and town homes inching up the city's hillside have become an eyesore for some residents now looking to city officials to curb the growth.

"When we drive around here, it is nauseating," said Matt Haines, who lives in a single-family subdivision next to the slope of condos. "We have to look away."

City planners will consider a plan to counter the burst of homogeneous town homes Thursday night with new design standards mandating everything from "visual relief" through architectural features and a minimum of two colors on each unit.

If passed, the new standards would apply to all buildings with at least three attached units and will disallow more than six homes from being attached horizontally. The guidelines will also prohibit continuous roofs of more than 50 feet and require landscaping between every four parking spaces.

"It's the lack of design features, and there's nothing to break up the massing of a solid wall," City Manager Eric Keck said. "They're just lined up, and the council wants to have some relief there."

The catalyst for the design standards, Keck added, was the Liberty Hill development of rental town homes in the city's South Pointe near Point of the Mountain. The uniform rows of connected town homes have drawn criticism from residents and from City Council members who want more height and design variety.

"We want to allow density where it makes sense, but it's all in how you design it," Keck said.

But Haines said variety is simply not enough to cure the "disappointing developments." Instead of mandating variety, Haines said, the city should actively review design applications to ensure more harmony exists among disparate developments.

Haines added that his greatest frustration is not with developers but with city officials who have repeatedly promised that "the next development will be better."

"Where does that cycle end? It's this desperate-to-be-unique philosophy where you end up with this hodge-podge rainbow color effect," he said. "There's no continuity at all. You don't drive through Draper and say, 'Wow, somebody really thought this out.' "

Haines added that the design elements are a byproduct of the city allowing high-density units to crawl up the hillside. The "stack 'em and pack 'em" philosophy of city planners has left longtime residents wondering where the city's hallmark open space and scenic views have gone, he said.

"Quality design has been compromised for profitability," he said. "The way that they seem to skimp on quality is sad, and it's something that is affecting the general quality of life."

But Keck said the city is merely responding to the clear demand for town homes that allow empty nesters and young couples to afford to live in the city without paying for million-dollar homes.

At least one of the town home developments sold out within its first few months, Keck said, because the market is strong for rental and owner-owned condos.

"We want to have the inter-generational housing so young families can live here, senior citizens can live here and everyone else in between," he said.

Summer Pugh said she and a group of residents plan to discuss the growth of multifamily housing on South Mountain tonight because they have been irked by the rapid town-home development.

City Council members yanked official endorsement of Pugh's group — formerly the Corner Canyon Neighborhood Association — when it disbanded community councils last week. Now, Pugh said, the residents will be lobbying for fewer high-density homes and other city issues as the newly formed "Unified Neighborhoods of Draper."

"Technically we don't exist anymore, but give us a few days and we'll get a little energy behind us," Pugh said.


E-mail: estewart@desnews.com

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