City Council votes to continue public hearing on Sugar House height

Map of the proposed zoning changes in the Sugar House Streetcar Corridor Master Plan. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning.
Map of the proposed zoning changes in the Sugar House Streetcar Corridor Master Plan. Image courtesy Salt Lake City planning.

Over four years and multiple revisions later, the Sugar House Streetcar Corridor Master Plan is still evolving.  The Salt Lake City Council held a public hearing on Tuesday during its formal council meeting.  After listening to dozens of residents testify for and against the plan, the council decided to continue the public hearing at a later date.

If adopted the plan would amend the Sugar House Master Plan and create form based zoning for parcels in proximity to the S-Line streetcar route and 700 East.  The intent of the plan is to spur development along the S-Line Greenway and streetcar route that engages with the greenway and encourages transit use.  Of the changes that the new form based code would allow, the most contentious has been the increased building height allowance.

“It is clearly hostile to residential neighborhoods,” said one resident of the proposed height increases.

According to city planning, the purpose of form based zoning is to “provide zoning regulations that focus on the form of development, the manner in which buildings are oriented toward public spaces, the scale of development, and the interaction of uses within the city.”

Unlike traditional zoning that focuses more on uses, form based is mostly concerned with the size and scale of the structure itself and how it interacts at the street level.  Developments in form based zones are scrutinized for design and scale in ways that traditional zoning doesn’t always require. With traditional zoning developers can build projects with limited street engagement or that are boxy or out-of-scale for the neighborhood as long as the project complies with the zoning requirements.

“In the beginning I wasn’t at all in favor of it (streetcar corridor plan), but I began to see its benefit,” said Judi Short, the land use and zoning chair for the Sugar House Community Council.  

Short, representing Sugar House Community Council, told the council that the community council supports the proposed changes to the S-Line corridor.

The majority of the parcels that would be affected by the corridor plan are currently zoned CB (Community Business) and RMF-35 (Residential Multifamily).  The CB zone regulates by building size instead of height, currently allowing up to 20,000 square feet.  The RMF-35 allows for multifamily developments up to 35 feet in height.

The corridor plan would create two new form based zoning districts: FB-SC (Special Purpose Corridor Core Subdistrict) and FB-SE (Special Purpose Corridor Edge Subdistrict).  The FB-SC zone would be concentrated along 700 East just south of 2100 South and would allow building heights up to 75 feet (six to seven floors) and heights up to 105 feet (around 10-stories) if the project reserves at least 20 percent of units as affordable.  The FB-SE zone would allow for building heights up to 45 feet (ten feet more than currently allowed under the RMF-35).

Both the FB-SC and the FB-SE zoning district would accommodate mixed uses but commercial would be limited to the first three floors and two floors respectively.

Several residents that spoke during the public hearing expressed concerns about diminished privacy with taller development in the neighborhood.

“If you aren’t going to get it (privacy) in your backyard where can you get it?” asked one resident.

To create a buffer between lower density residential areas and new development, city planners have added an additional form based zone, FB-UN1 (Form Based Urban Neighborhood).  The city already uses a FB-UN1 zone code, which restricts building heights to 2.5 stories.  Several parcels in the Central Ninth neighborhood are zoned FB-UN1.

If the council adopts the plan, the majority of properties along the S-Line will be have the form based zone.  The city of South Salt Lake uses a form based code for properties along the S-Line between 500 East and State Street.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at