Sandy rejects new mixed-use development over lack of retail activation

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A Utah real estate development company once again lost its bid to move forward with a proposed neighborhood commercial development in Sandy, after the city’s board of adjustment unanimously upheld Sandy’s determination that the project didn’t meet city code.

The proposed 6.2-acre development at the corner of 1300 East and Sego Lily Drive would include 196 residential units and 14,000 square feet of retail and office space. 

The corner has “long been undeveloped” and has been the subject of proposed developments several times, according to Wade R. Budge, a Snell & Wilmer attorney representing the Magna-based Investment & Development LTD. 

The Sandy Planning Commission rejected Magna’s proposal March 7, finding that the site doesn’t meet the definition of “mixed-use development” per the Sandy City Land Development Code. 

The proposal only included 6 percent retail space and 1 percent office space relative to the total building area, so it wouldn’t function as a “walkable village center” that harmonizes with the surrounding neighborhood as required by the definition of mixed-use development, the city said. 

The developer appealed the decision, arguing that the commission created a “non-existent” ratio requirement in the zoning code. It also said that Sandy applied mixed-use development standards to a project not even located in a mixed-use zone. 

The project should be evaluated based on the standards and definitions applicable to a neighborhood commercial zone, the developer said. 

“It’s valid code but it wasn’t applied correctly to us,” Budge told the Sandy Board of Adjustment – a quasi-judicial body that interprets zoning ordinances – during its Thursday meeting. 

What’s more, Sandy has approved at least five other mixed-use projects with a similar to or smaller ratio of residential to commercial square footage, Budge said. 

Tyler Brown, a member of the board of adjustment, agreed that there should be more clarity in the ordinances about what requirements must be met before submitting land use applications. 

But the board voted Thursday that the developer didn’t meet its burden of proving that the Planning Commission’s decision was so unreasonable as to be arbitrary and capricious – a standard of judicial review. 

“I think the Planning Commission did err in its choice of definitions that are applicable to this case,” Brown said. “But a reasonable mind could have concluded that the proposal didn’t meet that definition of mixed use.”

“There’s plenty of evidence in the record to show that it wasn’t arbitrary and capricious,” Burke Staker, another member of the board said. “There’s a lot of reasons for them to come to the conclusions that they did.” 

The developer had previously submitted an application for the project in 2021, and then worked with the city for several years to make revisions and supplements. Sandy says that the developer can once again revise and resubmit its proposal. 

The developer didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Email Samantha Hawkins

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