COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend a zone change that would allow for upscale homes and hotels at the the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The City Council will have the final say on the zone change. It has not yet heard the proposal.

The approval followed two well-attended public hearings and dozens of letters and e-mails from owners of property in the area.

They raised concerns about a proposed plan to build the city's first two hotels and about 2 dozen high-end homes, and spoke about the possibility of increased traffic, too little parking, too little water and fault lines running through the property.

Gary Harrison, the applicant for the zone change, submitted preliminary plans showing about 24 houses and two luxury hotels along with his application, though the information wasn't required. Plans and even ownership of the property could still change prior to any development.

The zone change would allow the Planning Commission more say in mitigating detrimental effects, said city planning director Michael Black.

"We have a new neighbor that wants to come into our community and try to improve it," said commissioner JoAnn Frost.

The 10 acres in question at the corner of Fort Union Boulevard and Wasatch Drive are zoned for commercial use.

Under the mixed-use zone, hotels and homes would be allowed but the most intensive commercial uses such as liquor stores and car dealerships are not.

The property, now vacant, was once the Canyon Racquet Club. It is surrounded by residences and a gas station.

Commission members said they voted for the change because the "worst-case scenario" in mixed-use zoning would be better than such a scenario under commercial zoning.

The commission could only choose between mixed-use and commercial zoning because doing otherwise would be considered an illegal taking of the owner's property.

The City Council will hold public hearings before it makes its decision. Only then could plans for the hotels and homes be finalized.

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