A controversial office complex proposed for the Jordan River bottoms cleared two major hurdles Tuesday night as the City Council voted 4-0 to approve a conditional-use permit and general site plan for the project.
But council members made that approval contingent on city officials hammering out a master development agreement with developer Gerald Anderson that will pass council muster no later than next Tuesday at 5 p.m.That's when a zoning extension granted by the council will expire and put the 86-acre office park project in limbo if council members don't accept the pact.
If the agreement isn't done by the deadline, Mayor Dix McMullin said, "there's no deal." But the mayor said he'll call a special meeting before the deadline if the document is ready.
Anderson said Tuesday he's confident all major issues have been resolved and added the master pact is nearly ready.
"The city attorney hasn't had time to finish the final draft because of litigation" brought by RiverPark opponents, he said.
The council decision marked the second bitter defeat of the day for Save Open Space, a coalition of South Jordan residents that has opposed the RiverPark plan.
Earlier in the day, 3rd District Judge Homer Wilkinson denied a request for a preliminary injunction that would have halted the project pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by SOS.
Attorney Ross Anderson had filed a complaint on behalf of SOS charging the city failed to properly post the ordinances in three public places as required by law.
But Wilkinson ruled during the preliminary hearing that city officials had followed the proper procedure. He also dissolved a temporary restraining order he issued last week that had stymied council action on the project.
Ross Anderson said he doesn't believe the testimony of city officials and still intends to prove at trial both the rezoning ordinance approved by the council in April 1997 and the extension granted in December are illegal.
SOS founder Janalee Tobias said she was disappointed by the council action Tuesday night but plans to continue the battle in court. The coalition has also attempted to circulate referendum and initiative petitions challenging the Dec. 17 zoning extension.
But the council rejected requests to prepare petitions for public circulation, saying they had not been timely filed and holding that state law does not permit referendums or initiatives on local zoning decisions.
The Utah Supreme Court has already heard arguments on the referendum dispute but has not yet handed down a decision.
"It's not over yet," Tobias said. "The city has ramrodded this (project) through, but we're going to continue to fight."
Judy Feld, also an SOS founder, said she felt the coalition had demonstrated enough public opposition to the project to persuade the council to downsize or reject it.
But prior to approving the conditional-use permit, the council adopted an unusual set of formal "findings" drafted by Councilman Gary Chandler that:
- Held the permit and site plan submitted by the developers was reviewed by city staff and the South Jordan Planning Commission and that properly noticed public hearings were held.
- Noted approval of the permit and plan was recommended by the Planning Commission and that those documents conform to the city's general plan.
- Said the project is "necessary and desirable," provides employment potential and needed public improvements and is not detrimental to South Jordan.
- Held that RiverPark complies with the city zoning ordinance and, when constructed, will be beneficial to the community and enhance the city's tax base.