The Salt Lake City Council has approved three ordinances that will clear the way for a controversial zoning change and land trade, all part of a development of exclusive neighborhoods in the Ensign Peak area.
The City Council unanimously approved the ordinances after a public hearing last week where neighbors said the issue had divided their ranks. The zoning changes allow 155 new homes, a 150-acre nature park around Ensign Peak, a six-acre community park and trail head. Seventy-two of the planned residences will be situated in three private, planned-unit developments, behind fences and security gates.Under the land trade, 45 acres of city-owned land in the Ensign area near the State Capitol will be traded for 76 acres of Ensign Downs property. The city's land is valued at $1.1 million and the Ensign Downs property at $1.6 million. Mayor Palmer DePaulis still must approve the trade.
Comment at the public hearing was mixed, but several of the residents said they were concerned about what one called "exclusive enclaves" created in the planned-unit developments. Some were also concerned that the development would limit access to wild areas, despite a planned trailhead.
Glen Saxton, a representative with Ensign Downs, Inc., said that the expanded development will offer diversity to the area. He said the new 155 "high-income" houses will also help boost Salt Lake City's tax base.
The umbrella Salt Lake Association of Community Councils said it couldn't approve the land trade and zoning change.
Hermaine Jex, a community activist, read the council a list of 10 reasons the council should not take action. She also said the peak is a state historical site.
She asked for a 90-day moratorium to study the issue further. She said she was concerned that the planned land trade leaves a neighborhood park too small, that the city should trade its land for more desirable property and that creation of three planned-unit developments is in violation of rights of Ensign Downs.
Teresa Overfield, an officer of the Ensign Downs Homeowners Association, said, "The neighborhood is totally divided on this issue. The very fact of this has caused division."
She said she did not agree with the rezoning and land exchange.
Another Ensign Downs representative, Paul Wise, said the neighbors in the area voted 2-1 in favor of the plan. He voiced personal concern about the planned-unit developments and requested that residents continue to have access.
Cindy Kromer, East Central neighborhood, said she supported the land trade because planned-unit developments are allowed to have reduced street widths and the fact that, under the deal, the city will own all of Ensign Peak again.
David Morris said he saw the planned-unit developments as contrary to the creation of community.
"The idea of `community' is not someplace you wall yourself off from your neighbor," he said.
The City Council's decision follows approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which placed several conditions on the approval.
Included in conditions is that the commission reserves the issue of pedestrian and bicycle access to one of the exclusive neighborhoods. It will also make final approvals of specific planned-unit development plans.