Upzone allowing 1800-unit development in north Rose Park set for approval by city council

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It’s adjacent to I-215. It’s not served by UTA. It’s called a “food desert” by its city council representative.

6 acres squeezed in between I-215 and two regional recreation sites at 2400 North is currently at the margin of the city’s residential development footprint. Across I-215 to the west is some of the city’s last agricultural land.

Yet the site its primed to get annexed into the city and a substantial upzone from Agricultural AG-2 to R-MU Residential Mixed-Use, a zone written for the city’s urban core.

The zoning change request was called a “square peg in a round hole” by City Council Chair Darin Mano at a briefing last month. Nevertheless, the petition seems on its way to approval.

Hungry for new housing, City Hall is busy fine-tuning an agreement with a local developer that will bring, in phases, 1800 new units, and retail development, to a somewhat isolated 6-acre site that also abuts the state’s ATV (OHV) park at 2462 North Rose Park Lane as well as the northern end of the city’s Regional Athletic Complex (RAC).

Although rejected by the Planning Commission, the petition seems increasingly likely to gain approval from Mano and his council colleagues after a briefing in mid-August. Supporters include the area’s representative, Victoria Petro (D1).

The list of conditions the city is requiring in a development agreement, however, looks to be long.

Let’s look at the petition, its context, and the oddities surrounding the development agreement.

The petition and proposal

As part of a petition that also includes ~28 acres annexed from Salt Lake County to the City, JWright Communities LLC is seeking a zoning change from AG-2 to R-MU. Originally, RMF-75 was requested, but it was changed to R-MU after the council’s request for mixed-use, a change Council Member Petro took credit for in the council’s August discussion.

As a part of the upzone the developer was required to submit preliminary development plans for the site. Hunter Stables Apartments—a decidedly un-urban name, come to think of it—was born.

JWright, emphasizing the preliminary nature of their plans, propose 1804 units across 11 podium-plus-five structures. Each of Hunter Stables’ 11 buildings would provide 164 units. While mostly one-bedrooms and studios (75% of the units), developers noted that they are now considering some three-bedroom homes along with the two-bedrooms that make up the remaining 25% of the unit count.

Images courtesy CRSA Architecture Planning & Design.

Parking in the R-MU zone is regulated by the new parking ordinance. No off-street parking is required, but in the development agreement, according to Planning Staff at the August 15 City Council briefing, the city is mandating two stalls per unit.

That exceeds the developer’s original parking count under their initial RMF-75 plan. Those drawings included two levels of podium parking in each building, 1760 stalls. An additional 775 surface stalls would make a total of 2535 parking spaces, a 1.4 to 1 ratio.

In order to build out the site’s potential, the development is dependent on a yet-unbuilt east-west road being called the North Access Road or Sports Park Boulevard. It includes a pedestrian and bicycle path on the south side that links with the Jordan River Trail. Called “state-funded” in Planning Commission and City Council briefings, it is unclear if the city has a role in the design of the right-of-way.

Planning Commission recommends denial

Despite Planning Division staff recommending approval, the Planning Commission found enough flaws in the proposal to recommended denial to the City Council.

The parcel is part of the Westpointe community council boundaries, and is also included in the new Northpoint Small Area Plan currently being considered for a vote by the council. Planning Staff, while combining city-, state-, and privately-owned land in the annexation and rezone ordinance, kept separate the Hunter Stables project and the Northpoint Small Area Plan rewrite.

Commissioner Amy Barry argued that “what we’re really honing in on here is, How livable is this parcel? It is challenging for so many reasons.” Commissioner Andra Ghent affirmed Barry’s concerns, asking “Is adding density in this part of the city consistent with our overall city goals, given that there’s no transit there?”

Citing the small area plan’s preference for future agricultural uses and the city-wide general plan’s emphasis on transit-oriented development and livability of neighborhoods—and noting a lack of neighborhood access to the ATV park and the RAC—the Commission voted 6-4 to deny a stamp of approval for the annexation, rezone, and master plan amendment ordinance.

Oddities

By the time it reached the City Council briefing in mid-August, 13 conditions requiring developer performance had been added to the ordinance. Too bad the proposed zoning category, R-MU, can’t do all that work.

Representatives of JWright Communities seem eager to please the City Council, for example offering to lease retail spaces at below-market rents initially.

Whether mixed-use is viable in the project’s somewhat isolated context is a legitimate concern. Perhaps the nearby recreation facilities, an interstate exit at 2100 North, and a single-family-home subdivision to the south will help.

Regardless, the city’s approval on agricultural land of a zone meant for the urban core is likely to be a notable precedent.

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Posted by Luke Garrott

Luke Garrott, PhD, has published in The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and written features for the Salt Lake City Weekly City Guide and The West View. A former two-term councilman in Salt Lake City's District 4, he lives in Downtown Salt Lake City and grew up in the Chicago area.