SOUTH SALT LAKE In a move to retain one of the city's most profitable business, the City Council here voted Wednesday to close two neighborhood streets and give up public property.
The vote opened a path for Hinckley Dodge Chrysler Jeep to expand eastward into residential property. The automobile dealership will now have to purchase the residential lots before turning Burton and Truman Avenues to cul-de-sacs.
As is customary in street closures, the public land will be deeded to the dealership at no cost, said South Salt Lake Community Development director Larry Gardner. Public utilities won't be disrupted by the transformation, he added.
Interest in closing the streets in favor of Hinckley Dodge first came up about two years ago when the dealership asked the city for a zone change, Gardner said. Public officials at that time heard concerns from residents, and the issue was dropped.
Then, a few months ago, the dealership approached the city again. In the time between the two proposals, Jim Hinckley purchased the D'Ambrosio Chrysler dealership and moved his 53-year-old business to the east side of State Street to make way for the Market Station redevelopment project.
The Hinckley purchase brought with it requirements from the Chrysler corporation that Hinckley expand from 6 to 7.5 acres.
"Hinckley never threatened the city with leaving, but like any good businessman he looked at other locations," Gardner said.
Facing the possibility of losing a "great corporate citizen," the South Salt Lake Council voted to close the streets. The business is among the top 10 tax revenue producers in the city, Gardner said.
"The one thing we have to remember is that we need to meet whatever requirement it is that Hinckley is required to meet by Chrysler Corporation," said council member Casey Fitts.
The closures could benefit the neighborhood near 2800 South by stopping the noise and danger of State Street through-traffic. It will also provide a more effective barrier between the dealership and neighborhood, Gardner said.
"Truman Avenue below 200 East was destroyed many years ago as a good, viable, healthy residential neighborhood," said resident Pat Birch, whose house is among those to be purchased by the dealership. "Now, Mr. Hinckley obviously needs more room."
Birch went on to tell city officials that not closing the street would amount to a "death blow" to the neighborhood.
Other residents are concerned that closing the streets will delay emergency vehicle response to the area.
"I'm concerned because you're talking about my life," said heart patient Ed Delinger during a public hearing regarding the issue. "I want the emergency vehicles to get to my house as fast as they can."
Police and fire department officials also at the meeting said the issue had been studied and wouldn't be a problem.
Other residents have voiced concerned about being forced from their homes and are worried that Hinckley Dodge may continue expanding, they said at the meeting.
In response, the City Council motion approving the street closures specified that the city would not condemn affected houses but would require Hinckley to purchase property on his own.
The city also garnered a promise from Hinckley Dodge to create walkways in the closed area for residents' use.
Council member Shane Siwick was the lone dissenter in the March 12 vote that approved the street closures. He was unable to support closing both streets when the possibility of closing only one was feasible, he said."There were citizens that wanted it to happen; there were citizens adamant against it," he said, explaining that he wasn't totally against the proposal. "There were good arguments made on both sides."