Now that a state judge has freed nearly half of Bluffdale's land from the city's oversight, landowners have begun moving forward on plans to develop there.

Development Associates, a real-estate development company with several subdivisions throughout the southwest Salt Lake Valley, said Friday that it plans to build on its 640 acres that were part of a lawsuit over 3,900 acres in southwest Bluffdale — more than 40 percent of the city's area. Development Associates partner David Millheim said the plans are for a large mixed-use residential development, with homes built in varying densities. The Bluffdale-Herriman area also has been the subject of speculation regarding another future project: the Salt Lake Valley's fifth LDS temple.

The land lies in what was once Area 4, the southwest area of Bluffdale. Third District Judge Anthony Quinn ruled Feb. 27 that the city's planning process was "dysfunctional" and slow, making it impossible for developers to get speedy answers on what they could do with their land.

The entire 3,900 acres are essentially undeveloped, but landowners there — especially Development Associates and Sorenson Development subsidiary South Farm — have been itching to develop the land for more than a decade. South Farm is building the Rosecrest development in neighboring Herriman, and the idea is to continue that development eastward.

But the developers have met resistance from city officials responding to pressure from residents eager to retain Bluffdale's rural character. Bluffdale homes have historically been built on lots of at least one acre. The developers want to build at a density of, on average, 2.6 homes per acre, with some neighborhoods being as dense as 18 units per acre.

After being denied a zoning change request in December 2003, the developers filed the lawsuit.

Development Associates and South Farm own about half of the land in Area 4. The rest is owned by various landowners, none of whom objected to breaking away from the city.

Landowners have said they plan, in the wake of Quinn's decision, to seek annexation into Herriman. Bluffdale officials plan to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

That ruling, Millheim said, gave developers the go-ahead to move to the next stage of planning, though a Supreme Court appeal could continue to slow things down.

"It will waste the taxpayers time and money," he said. "But the judge's ruling was very clear and clean, and he followed the law, which we knew he'd do."

City officials and members of Bluffdale United, the resident group opposed to dense development, could not be reached for comment Friday. But City Attorney Dale Gardiner and newly elected Mayor Claudia Anderson, who was supported by Bluffdale United, told the Deseret Morning News after February's ruling that they were certain the ruling would be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said at the church's October 2005 semiannual general conference that two new temples would be built in the Salt Lake Valley: one at South Jordan's new Daybreak community and another somewhere in the county's west side.

Two former Bluffdale officials in January suggested the temple would be built in Bluffdale, with speculation pointed at Area 4. Church officials have refused to comment on that speculation, and developers, including Sorenson officials, have said they know of no specific plans.

Millheim said his development will have some "very nice religious edifices" but said he could not speak to any plans for a temple site.


E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com