Land-use problems are driving some Salt Lake City Council members batty since a staff planning position was eliminated by a majority vote in February.
But the same majority of council members that voted to replace the council's land-use planner with another budget analyst said at a mountain retreat recently they still favor the elimination of the position.The former land-use planner used to respond to constituent questions about, for example, complying with the city's 959-page zoning ordinance. Now, the city's seven council members must handle the problems individually.
"That's really stupid for me to be wasting my time that way," said Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck at a council retreat held at Alta Lodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Council Chairman Tom Godfrey placed land use on the retreat agenda in order to ask council members whether land-use problems arebeing dealt with satisfactorily.
Fonnesbeck, Godfrey and Councilwoman Roselyn Kirk, who all voted against eliminating the staffer, said responding to citizens with land-use problems consumes much of their time. And sending constituents to the city planning office often left citizen complaints unaddressed, she added.
By an ironic coincidence, the council was surprised to learn this week of the sale of a $33,000 piece of city-owned land to developer Howard Lund. Although the proposal for the development was sent back to the city Planning Commission, the sale gave Lund enough land to begin a development to which several neighbors angrily objected.
Kirk, in whose district the sale occurred, termed the transaction a "goof-up" because the council was unaware the city land had been sold to Lund. Had there been a land-use planner still on the staff, the mistake might not have occurred, Godfrey said.
Fonnesbeck said the council has been unable to initiate a single land-use issue, such as progress on the development of the city's northwest quadrant, since the position was eliminated.
"What land-use initiative has gone through this council successfully in the last six months?" she asked, without receiving a response.
The lack of control over land use by the council has left too much power over the issue to the mayor, she added. "The mayor and his staff are laughing at the power we've given him."
But council members Florence Bittner, W.M. "Willie" Stoler, Alan Hardman and Wayne Horrocks, who all voted to eliminate the position, said they have not been adversely affected by their decision.