More blue suits may have been seen on election night in Salt Lake City Council chambers than at political party headquarters for a hearing on two proposed ordinances to control building demolitions and parking-lot construction.
Scores of businessmen and businesswomen gathered to testify for or against the ordinances. City planners say the ordinances are a means to protect downtown "urban fabric," but developers say they will stifle needed downtown development.Plans by some developers to demolish five downtown buildings and replace them with parking lots are being held in abeyance pending a council vote on the ordinances. That vote could come next Tuesday at another public hearing.
Marilyn Oakey, vice president of the Camera Den, 145 S. State Street, submitted a photograph showing what one State Street block might look like if Questar Corp. razed the old Utah-Idaho Building, 155-157 S. State St.
Questar officials say they will landscape the parking lot with a brick wall, shrubs and trees facing State Street.
Zions Bank, with development company Gerald D. Hines Interests, wants to destroy four buildings at 20-31 W. First South and 116-118 S. Main Street to provide parking space for the Kearns Building, 136 S. Main St., under renovation by Hines.
One ordinance would make demolishing buildings in the downtown area a conditional use. The other would make surface parking lots in the downtown area a conditional use. Conditional use permits are issued by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Under the demolition ordinance, the Planning Commission would be able to approve or disapprove a demolition based on a schematic diagram of the post-demolition lot "consistent with downtown planning policies."
Under the parking lot ordinance, a developer must demonstrate a need for more parking downtown and prove that alternate uses for the lot aren't economically viable before they pave a parking lot.
Surface parking lots are considered bad for the downtown "fabric," said the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team, a group of urban planners.
Developers are concerned the ordinance would prohibit them from building needed parking lots and practicing "land banking," or tearing buildings down until developers build new structures there in better economic times.
Tom Bacon, of Gerald Hines, said they need the parking structure to lease office in the Kearns Building. "We live or die on parking," he said. Questar said it will lease its parking space to nearby businesses.
One parking lot manager said there is no need for parking in the downtown area, 50 percent of which is dedicated to parking. Within 11/2 blocks of the Utah-Idaho Building are 2,000 parking spaces, 600 of which were empty Tuesday afternoon, she said.
"There needs to be a need for parking and in the areas they're proposing parking, there's no need," she said.
In a written statement, Questar said the proposed ordinances "represent dangerous government intrusion in free enterprise activities." Passing the ordinances would result in the spread of "boarded-up" eyesores because developers would be unable to raze buildings and replace them with "neatly landscaped parking lots."