A development company claiming to have every right to build an industrial park adjacent to the Hercules Aerospace overpressure zone is at odds with the West Valley City Council, which wants the land for residential use.
The fight is over Bettilyon Joint Ventures' right to develop the parcel and the City Council's right to determine what kind of development it will permit. If it goes to court as anticipated, it would be the first suit West Valley has faced concerning land use since the city incorporated nine years ago.The Bettilyon property is near land annexed by West Valley City in 1987. The city annexed the land in the overpressure zone in unincorporated Salt Lake County that surrounds Hercules. Hercules threatened to leave Utah if encroaching residential developments were not stopped.
Bettilyon planned to build an industrial and business research park on land just outside the overpressure zone near the aerospace and defense contractor.
The land was zoned manufacturing when it was part of Salt Lake County and later made part of West Valley City when the community incorporated, said Randall Trueblood, Bettilyon attorney.
"About a year ago, West Valley was attempting to change the master plan and attempting to downzone the property to single use" residential, Trueblood said. But Bettilyon already had applied to build the industrial park under the manufacturing zone.
What was needed was a modification in the master plan, the blueprint of what may be built where, to allow research park construction to proceed. Research and industrial parks are permitted uses in manufacturing zones.
Yet in a November hearing, the council voted to change the master plan to show the area zoned for strictly residential use, not the kind of adjustment that would allow professional and research offices Bettilyon sought.
The property is roughly from 60th West to 58th West and 41st South to 4240 South. It is surrounded on two sides by Beehive Mills, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes religious garments for its members, the Utah Power & Light corridor for high-power lines and Hillside Elementary school. What Councilwoman Janice Fisher is most concerned about is the type of activities permitted in the manufacturing zone.
"It's the potential of the M-1 (manufacturing zone) that scares me," Fisher said in an interview.
During the November hearing and one earlier this month, Fisher said truck traffic coming to and from the complex would interfere with the residential aspect of adjacent neighborhoods and be a hazard for both the school and a high school now under construction.
"I think it would be a disaster" to allow the manufacturing zone in the area, Fisher said during a heated public hearing two weeks ago called to reconsider the council's earlier decision. "To me, the area lends itself to residential."
Fisher represents the residents who live in the area near the proposed development and said she has received many comments from citizens opposed to the industrial park.
The manufacturing zone "just really makes me nervous in that area because it allows them to do some things that (are) really detrimental" to the neighborhood, she said.
But the city Planning Commission approved the paper change to allow the business and industrial park. And the council's resistance, led by Fisher, has Bettilyon exasperated.
"Clearly, in our view, it is inappropriate to limit that property to solely residential use," said Trueblood, who maintains Bettilyon would lose up to $1 million if it had to sell residential lots over leasing the property.
"You have to look at the power to zone as an exercise of the police power. It has to be exercised properly," the lawyer said. "You can't go out and indiscriminately tell a developer he can't develop something that is permitted use. We're entitled to build pursuant to what the zone on the property permits us to build."
Despite Planning Commission and staff approval of the request to allow the business and industrial park, "the City Council is the ultimate voice," said City Manager John Newman.
When the property was annexed, Mayor Brent Anderson said the city hoped to locate a business and industrial park within the overpressure zone. The kind of businesses allowed within that zone would be constructed to code for structures near Hercules, which uses volatile rocket propellants in making boosters and motors for the nation's space and defense programs.
"The issue with Bettilyon and Mrs. Fisher started two years before we got in on" annexation of Hercules, said Newman.
Hercules is staying neutral on the issue since the Bettilyon property is outside that overpressure zone.
"They were smart" to annex the property with an eye to development and recreation, said Dave Nicponski, the Hercules official in charge of governmental affairs. "There's no golf course on this side of the valley. Let's face it - it has a great view."
"We're not gauging our performance or actions or anything on the Bettilyon property," said Newman, adding, "In our mind, the staff thinks that what would go in there wouldn't take anything away" from the city's plans. "It is an asset rather than a detraction."
Trueblood said Bettilyon will give the issue another 30 days for resolution and will continue to submit plans for street dedications to the city.
"If we are in a posture where the city continues to deny my client the right to develop his property, we're headed to court," Trueblood said.
The City Council put the Bettilyon battle on the agenda for its Tuesday night study session. It will vote Thursday night on whether to reverse itself and change the zoning from its current residential back to light-manufacturing and residential.