Open space advocates rejoice. Private property owners be warned.

In a 5 to 1 vote, the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday created a new, unique zoning district that can be used to set aside property as undevelopable natural open space.

Now, city planners will search the city in an effort to determine which properties should be included in the new natural open space zone.

"I know that there is a planning effort going on right now to inventory our open space," Councilman Carlton Christensen said. "There are numerous locations in the city, not just in the foothills, but also in the low lands where we live."

The zone, a reaction to the controversial North Salt Lake open space fight, is the most restrictive zone the city has and forbids property from having any development other than trails. On Nov. 15, the council will consider putting the 100-plus acres along the North Salt Lake border in the new zone.

There are concerns the zone might not pass constitutional muster since it would forbid property owners from doing anything to develop their land. In some cases, courts have ruled governments cannot essentially "take" someone's property by forbidding development on it.

"Your open space zoning does not allow for things that should be allowed," North Salt Lake resident Gene Madsen said in written comments on the issue. "The all-for-nothing approach by SLC — nothing again emphasized — is wrong and not right."

A few residents told the council on Tuesday they support the new zone.

The City Council's move comes at the same time some state lawmakers, including House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, are trading e-mails discussing ways they might be able to curb cities' ability to restrictively zone property. Curtis and others say they do expect a land-use bill to be introduced during the 2006 Legislature, seeking to rein in cities' ability to restrict development through zoning.

Despite those legislative rumblings, the City Council was undeterred in creating the new, restrictive zoning.

The land that prompted the new zone is an 80-acre parcel of foothill space that is within Salt Lake City's border but owned by North Salt Lake. There is another 40 acres of surrounding space the city also plans to put in the new zone.

The fight over the open space became contentious during the past year, with the mayors of both cities trading heated words over how the land should be used.

North Salt Lake wants to put housing on 20 of the acres and use 10 for a cemetery. Groomed trails could be built on the remaining acreage, city officials say.

Many Salt Lake City residents, however, want the land preserved.

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After unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a settlement, North Salt Lake has filed a "notice to submit" in 2nd District Court in Farmington, meaning it is ready to move forward on a suit filed in July against Salt Lake City. The petition seeks to transfer the land away from Salt Lake City and allow it to be annexed into North Salt Lake so city leaders can develop it as they see fit.

The petition challenges a decision by the Salt Lake City Council to deny North Salt Lake control of the open space. Both cities had agreed to postpone a hearing on the petition to try to negotiate a settlement.


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