Sandy City Council may allow UTA parking lot after all

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 5:46 p.m. MDT

SANDY — Scott Cowdell called it "the worst about-face" he's seen in his 21 years of service on the Sandy City Council.

During an unscheduled discussion Tuesday about the City Council's decision to not allow a park-and-ride lot to serve a future light-rail station at 11400 South, Councilman Stephen Smith asked for the issue to be reconsidered next week.

Smith said he believes additional conditions offered by the Utah Transit Authority since the May 10 vote, combined with those recommended by the City Council and Planning Commission, will adequately mitigate expected detrimental impacts of the parking lot.

"I believe I'm now in a position where I can support the conditional-use permit and see no reason not to move it forward," Smith said during the "other council business" portion of Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Two weeks earlier, Smith was one of four council members who supported an appeal by a group of residents to overturn a decision by the Planning Commission in January that gave UTA a green light to build a parking lot west of the TRAX station now under construction at 11400 South.

Residents who celebrated that victory said they weren't in attendance for Tuesday night's meeting because the City Council agenda made no mention of the UTA project.

They plan to be there next week, however, and they hope they'll be given a chance to speak.

"We're not happy about it," resident Shane Woodbury said about the council's action Tuesday.

Neither was Cowdell, who along with fellow council members Smith, Bryant Anderson and Linda Martinez Saville sided with residents and voted to overturn the Planning Commission's action.

"It's almost unbelievable to me that backbones float away like that," Cowdell said.

Councilman Dennis Tenney took offense to Cowdell's comments, saying it was "despicable" for one elected official to "impugn the integrity" of another.

Councilman Chris McCandless also came to Smith's defense, saying "a decision of this magnitude (takes) a considerable amount of inner strength and fortitude."

"It's easier to just sit back and see what happens," McCandless said.

A group of 50-plus residents have been fighting for the past 2 ½ years to keep the park-and-ride lot from being built near their homes, arguing that it would negatively affect the health, safety and character of their neighborhood.

And two weeks ago, a majority of council members agreed with them. The City Council is expected to reconsider the issue during its May 31 meeting at City Hall, 10000 Centennial Parkway.

"This will have a detrimental impact on the neighborhood," Woodbury said. "If (council members change their minds), they will not be upholding what they were elected to do."

UTA officials had said they likely would appeal the decision in court, though they had not done so prior to Tuesday's meeting.

Spokesman Gerry Carpenter said the UTA is encouraged by the City Council's decision to revisit the issue.

"We feel like we have a great partnership with Sandy, a partnership that is mutually beneficial, and we believe this will continue," Carpenter said.

Since the vote, UTA officials have offered to increase security measures in the park-and-ride lot, including the installation of security cameras and working together with the Sandy Police Department to address an expected increase in crime.

"If crime increases, so do the patrols," McCandless said. "We can say, 'Increase your police patrols because we have an increased problem in our area.' ... That's substantive."

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