Developers unveil plans for mixed density project on 30 acres in Cottonwood Heights

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Developers want to turn the site of the old Cottonwood Heights Paper Mill and surrounding land into a mixed-use and residential low-density development, leaving the future of the 144-year-old Cottonwood Paper Mill up in the air. 

Chris Jensen of the Sandy-based Think Architecture firm pitched the new development to the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission during a work session on June 5. The proposal detailed the 30.98-acre plan that would include over 300 housing units — consisting of 175 condos, 120 townhomes and 14 single-family homes. 

Aside from the handful of single-family homes, the so-called Paper Mill Village would range from 10 units per acre in low-density townhome zones to 35 units per acre in medium-density condo zones. The proposal also called for roughly 30% of the development area — around 9.3 acres — to be open space, as that area is made up of steep slopes just below Wasatch Boulevard. 

The presentation was not a formal proposal to the Planning Commission, as the area would be redeveloped following the city’s Planned Development District (PDD) ordinance

A PDD proposal is different from a typical rezone proposal and carries additional requirements, including the need to hold a work session discussion before a formal application can be filed, according to a planning commission staff memo

The proposed development would rezone the old Cottonwood Paper Mill land from Regional Commercial (CR) to PDD. Much of the remaining land in the proposal is currently zoned for residential single family (R-1-8), and would also need to be rezoned to PDD. The plans also detail a handful of single-family homes to the south of the old paper mill and to create a walking trail along the banks of Big Cottonwood Creek. 

Project Details

  • Land owner – Walker Development LLC
  • Architect/developer – Think Architecture
  • Proposed development – 30.988 acres

Despite the proposal, the potential redevelopment still has multiple hurdles to clear, as at least three parcels in the proposal totaling over four acres have not yet been acquired by the developer, according to the proposal and county parcel records. 

It is also likely to face immense pushback from residents who have already begun rallying to save the Cottonwood Paper Mill, which opened in 1880 and was used to process pulp before it burned and was converted into other uses over the past century.

The proposal did not outline what exactly would be done with the old Cottonwood Heights Paper Mill, which has fallen into disrepair over the years. During the June 5 planning commission work session, Jensen said the property is a very important piece of history in the city. 

“The owners of the property are deeply committed to preserving the historical significance of the area as we develop plans and concepts for this development,” Jensen said. 

The parcels of land that consist of much of the development are owned by Walker Development LLC, and a business entity search lists the LLC’s address at a home in Holladay. The proposal also says, “the existing Land and the surrounding areas have been owned by the same family for almost 100 years.” 

Jensen told the Planning Commission that the density being proposed is “considerably less” than what could be done on the property. He added there is no intent to build apartments, and all units would be for-sale. 

Mike Johnson, Cottonwood Heights’ community and economic development director, said city staff went into the meeting with a neutral stance, as the city’s formal review of the project would take place farther along in the process. He said the PDD process requires a lengthy timeline and numerous public meetings, adding that two other similar developments took 12 to 18 months of public input before a decision was made. 

“It’s a much more hands-on process involved with the city,” Johnson said of the PDD process during the work session. The proposal was not up for a vote during the June 5 work session.

According to the proposal, multiple neighborhood meetings and planning commission work sessions will be held in the coming months before a final proposal could be submitted. The final proposal could be submitted to city staff by September.

Email Jacob Scholl

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