DRAPER — Building on a steep, slippery mountain slope is already hard, and Draper's City Council just made it a little harder — and potentially a little safer.

The council has approved a geohazard ordinance that requires developers to conduct more stringent, in-depth geological tests on areas that may be subject to landslides and liquefaction before they can receive approval to build in those areas.

"It has the potential to minimize the areas that can be developed because of the landslides that have been found and defined in that area," Councilman Paul Edwards said of the new ordinance. "I don't know if I would say it would cut down on the development (on the mountain bench) ... but I believe that there are areas that cannot be safely developed and this ordinance will probably prohibit development in some of those areas."

The ordinance will not apply to any existing structures in the city. In an attempt to answer developers' complaints that the city's geological study requirements were too vague, the city detailed the type of study and the qualifications for who can conduct the study for future developments.

Still, some developers in the city say they are concerned that parts of the ordinance are still too vague and other parts are restrictive beyond the city's power.

The ordinance says qualified geologists and geotechnical engineers must have at least five years experience and a college degree in their area of expertise. The city won't accept geohazard reports from those who are unqualified by the city's standards. Some developers disagree with the city's decision.

"I think it's inappropriate for the city to regulate professionals working in their city," Hiram Alba, a geotechnical engineer representing IGES, a geotechnical consulting company, told the City Council. "I think that falls under the purview of the state."

Ed Grampp, a representative for the SunCrest development in Draper, told the council he thinks the new ordinance is still too vague.

"We felt as if the protocol still lacks the specificity that we like," he said. "I've often said, 'Give me 100 things on a check list and we'll know what we need to do,' but it seems like there's still some vagueness that didn't get cleared up in this effort."

Council members acknowledged that the issue is intricate and complicated, but in some areas — as with allowing developers to build any city infrastructure on potential land flows — the council decided to allow more flexibility, and possibly require more tests, rather than prohibit development outright.

"One of our main goals is always to try and protect the interests of our citizens, and we're all saddened that we didn't have this information 10 years ago," Edwards said. "We did our best with the information we had 10 years ago, but in another 10 years, we may look back at this ordinance and say ... we would have done something different today. But this is the best we can do today with the information that we have available."


E-mail: [email protected]