City officials were jeered repeatedly during a court-ordered hearing on the so-called "Skier Connect" as area residents countered their contention that only certain businesses are opposed to the road.
The hearing was ordered after officials of the Sandy Mall and a coalition of other businesses and residents they organized won an injunction forcing Sandy City and the Utah Department of Transportation to stop construction on the road.It is now up to the Utah Department of Transportation to decide whether to continue construction of the two-lane road, which would connect 90th South and Seventh East with 94th South near 1150 East.
Work started on the road in early July but was halted by 3rd District Judge Scott Daniels about a month later because he determined UDOT had failed to hold a public hearing required under its own rules.
Utah Transportation Commissioner Wayne S. Winters heard five hours of testimony at the hearing held to comply with the ruling. The hearing began Tuesday evening and concluded about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
No date has been set for the Transportation Commission to vote on the road, although it is expected to take at least a month for the transcripts to be prepared and distributed.
The document will contain the testimony of dozens of Sandy residents as well as several experts and government officials on both sides of the issue. Most of the speakers opposed the road, and the opponents were more vocal.
Sandy Mayor Steve Newton was the target of a number of barbed comments shouted from the audience during the city's testimony, which took up more than an hour near the beginning of the hearing.
"Stall, stall," several members of the audience shouted as Newton tried to conclude the presentation. "Get him out of there," one man yelled, and another answered, "Vote him out of there."
At that point, Winters warned the audience that the more disruptions there were, the longer the hearing would take. Then he said the audience had been very patient and told Newton the city had to finish in five minutes.
After the hearing, Newton blamed the hostility of the crowd on the efforts of the Sandy Mall officials and the Coalition for a Better Sandy, which had taken out ads in the local newspaper and distributed brochures critical of the mayor and other supporters of the road.
City and Sandy Chamber of Commerce officials have said the road will help guide skiers to the mountain resorts, thus promoting tourism as well as make commuting to I-15 easier for residents.
They have said that the only opponents of the road are businesses in the city's commercial center, the intersection of 94th South and Seventh East, especially the Sandy Mall. The road will bypass that intersection.
Many residents at the hearing were wearing yellow T-shirts and ribbons, both printed with the message, "We (heart with the coalition name imprinted on it) Sandy," distributed by the coalition.
Road opponents questioned the need for the Skier Connect and asked whether the city's congestion problems at the busy intersection of 94th South and Seventh East couldn't better be solved with additional traffic signals and left-hand turn lanes.
The coalition submitted a traffic study it contracted that showed such improvements would cost $160,000, much less than the $1.5 million price tag for the road.
Other concerns raised came from residents whose property would be adjacent to the new road. Several said they or their neighbors would be forced to move when the road is eventually expanded from two to four lanes.
Four councilmen spoke in favor of the road: John Winder, Ron Gee, Dick Adair and Bruce Steadman. Councilman Ralph Tolman said he opposed the road and the remaining councilmen did not speak.