Most members of the Board of Governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce don't like the new Salt Lake ordinance on procedures that must be taken before old buildings can be demolished to make way for parking lots.
But, at the same time, the board members realize that because the ordinance is now law, they will work within the system even though they might not like it.Some board members felt they didn't have enough time to respond to the ordinance when it was being drafted and discussed during several public hearings, but attorney John Pace said that in the seven hours of public hearings there seemed to be adequate time for the chamber to submit its views.
And some board members, like Leon Harmon, suggested that certain City Council members be replaced in the next election because they don't know what businesses need to operate.
The ordinance adopted last week by the City Council on a 4-2 vote makes downtown building demolitions and subsequent parking lot construction a conditional use. It requires the owner to show that keeping the old building is not economically feasible and that there is a need for a parking lot.
Those wanting to demolish an old building in favor of a parking lot must receive permission from the Planning Commission and then the City Council.
Board Chairman Wm. James Mortimer said one of the chamber's committees favored the ordinance while another committee voted against it. The chamber's executive committee heard from members of both committees and asked the City Council to delay any decisions until the plan could be studied further.
But the procedures are now in effect, Mortimer said.
Mortimer then made a statement as the publisher of the Deseret News and not as board chairman.
Last year, he said, the Newspaper Agency Corp., which handles the printing, circulation and advertising for the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune, hired a consultant to determine how to complete a remodeling project. The consultant suggested building a new plant out of the downtown area, but NAC officials were committed to their Regent Street location between First and Second South and had earmarked $37 million for the project.
"What kind of a signal would that have sent to other downtown businessmen if we decided to move?" Mortimer asked.
At first, city officials were cooperative and even suggested the NAC purchase the old Tampico Restaurant for a staging area for newspaper delivery truck, Mortimer said. During construction the area could be used for materials and equipment storage.
On Nov. 14, Mortimer said the city denied a request by NAC officials for a demolition permit because of the new ordinance. Following the procedures outlined in the ordinance, Mortimer said nothing can be done until a Planning Commission hearing in January.
He said the chamber feels strongly that investors must believe that investing in the downtown area is good business. He said he recently received a call (after the ordinance was adopted) from an unnamed businessman who owns extensive property in the downtown area who won't "invest another dime" in the downtown area because of the ordinance.