SALT LAKE CITY — South Salt Lake, West Valley or Draper?
That's the question Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams was left to weigh Thursday, with a deadline of 11:59 p.m. to make his recommendation to the state to help decide where the county should build a new homeless resource center.
Apart from a short-lived offer from Draper Mayor Troy Walker — which he rescinded late Wednesday night after enduring four hours of wrath from his constituents — no city wants to welcome the facility with open arms.
So Thursday, after a 16-member committee weighed the pros and cons of the nine potential sites, city leaders braced themselves for McAdams' announcement, slated for Friday morning.
County leaders were tight-lipped Thursday night on exactly when McAdams would submit his recommendation to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the chairman of the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee, which will ultimately make a final decision April 10.
While McAdams said some sites are clearly more "deficient" than others, he stopped short of naming any specific locations that he considers on or off the table.
But based on Thursday's deliberations, South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood wasn't optimistic.
"Reading between the lines" of the committee's discussion, Wood said she's "absolutely concerned" McAdams will choose the site at 3432 S. 900 West.
"I think it's obviously 900 West," Wood said.
In fact, the mayor said her office was already planning an "emergency neighborhood meeting" Friday at 6 p.m. if South Salt Lake is chosen.
All along, Wood has worried her city of 24,000 is too small to support a new homeless facility, on top of the other tax-exempt regional services it already hosts.
But the committee's discussion included ideas to mitigate impacts on South Salt Lake — including the possibility that the 900 West or 1000 West sites could be annexed into Salt Lake County so Unified Police Department could service the area, instead of South Salt Lake's small police force.
Again, Wood made another plea to put a stop to the process that has given Salt Lake County less than a month to recommend a site — with Thursday's deadline required by HB441 passed this legislative session.
"I just wish they could take a step back, see the flaws, see the rushed nature and just stop the process and start over," she said, pointing to Wednesday night's raucous meeting in Draper as an indication of "how out of control this has gotten."
More than 700 Draper residents spent nearly four hours protesting Walker's offer Wednesday night — screaming, jeering, threatening lawsuits, demanding the mayor's resignation and calling for his impeachment.
After the meeting ran more than two hours over schedule, Walker eventually conceded to residents' demands after being repeatedly asked if he'd take back his offer.
"I really thought I would have some support, but I get it now," Walker said Wednesday night. "I don't think we can make our offer. I don't think we can do it."
But despite Draper Mayor Troy Walker's change of heart, McAdams said Thursday the sites are still on the table — though he did acknowledge the sites have significant problems, especially now that they lack city support.
Hurdles such as distance from Salt Lake City services and lack of access to transit might have been overcome with a community that would "embrace" the facility, but "it's clear that willingness and helping hand is not present in Draper," McAdams said.
"That site didn't have a lot of pros other than our perception that we had a community that might step up and be willing to help people in need," McAdams said. "But if that's not present in the Draper community, then it's going to be hard to overcome some of the deficiencies we see in that site."
One site evaluation committee member, Kristy Chamber — a Draper resident and director of the Columbus Community Center — said she understood her community's frustration over the 24-hour timeframe to protest Walker's proposal, but also said she was disappointed in their behavior.
"As a Draper resident, I want to apologize on behalf of my city," she said. "It was human nature at its worst."
McAdams said he, too, was "disappointed" in the Draper community's reaction, but also noted "this decision is not a popularity contest."
"I understand nobody's going to be eager to host this facility," he said, adding that the level of "rancor" within a community is not a "material factor" that will influence his decision. Other factors like access to transit and services will hold the real weight, he said.
Amid conversations of Draper and South Salt Lake, no solid debate about any of the West Valley sites indicated any of the city's three sites had any favor — though city leaders weren't holding their breath.
"Nothing surprises us anymore with this process," said West Valley City spokesman Sam Johnson. "We'll wait until Mayor McAdams announces his recommendation."
Click the markers on the map below to see all proposed sites.
Other considerations made during Thursday's committee meeting:
While McAdams noted more problems than plusses at the sites in Draper — on 15001 S. Minuteman Drive, or a site located somewhere on the 600 acres currently occupied by the Utah State Prison — other committee members saw opportunity.
Committee member Jean Hill, government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said the site on the prison land could be an "amazing" potential to build a resource center in an area slated for development, while also spreading homeless services further across the Wasatch Front.
"I know it will take longer to become a resource center, but the potential there is far greater than any of the other sites," she said.
While no price has been nailed down for a site on the prison property, the 1.96-acre parcel at 15001 S. Minuteman Drive was estimated to cost $1.2 million, according to county estimates.
South Salt Lake
The 3432 S. 900 West site clearly seemed to rise above the other three options in South Salt Lake when the committee considered costs.
While the set purchase price at the 900 West site still hasn't been negotiated since the land is state-owned, county officials said, it's expected to cost close to appraised value. According to the Salt Lake County Assessor's office, the vacant land was assessed last year at about $127,000.
The 2-acre site at 3091 S. Main was met with little enthusiasm, with committee members noting its proximity to small businesses, other social services, a liquor store, a pawn shop and a gun shop.
"I do think this is perhaps the worst site," Hill said.
Committee member Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, agreed, calling on the committee to not "waste any more time talking about this location."
The third site — 1144 W. 3300 South, directly adjacent to the Oxbow jail — stirred major cost concerns. County officials said cost could well exceed the purchase price of $3.4 million, since McAdams pointed out "major construction" would be needed to renovate the existing building.
Plus, county officials said another $1 million would be needed to buy out the lease of a tenant currently renting space on the property — a drug treatment facility called Aspire Addiction Recovery.
The nonprofit owned, already tax-exempt 2.46-acre site at 3380 S. 1000 West would not cost more than $850,000, according to county documents.
West Valley City
Concerns about impact on the Jordan River Parkway, safety and lack of sidewalks and street lighting arose during discussions of West Valley City's three site options: 1820 W. Printers Row, 2249 S. Winston St., and 2411 S. Winston St.
"Putting any homeless facility next to the Jordan River Parkway is really going to create a lot more concern for safety and security," said committee member Barbara Riddle, president of the business group Chamber West.
Cost was also a factor, particularly for the Printers Row site, with a purchase price of $3.5 million.
"If we would choose this site, there would have to be compelling reasons," McAdams said.
To Eliason, the 2411 S. Winston St. site, costing $2 million for 0.86 acres, was "completely unworkable" because of its size.
The 1.75-acre site at 2249 S. Winston St., owned by UTA with an assessed value of $457,000, also abuts the Jordan River, but committee members noted it had "acceptable" access to transit and neighborhood services.