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Cottonwood Heights Journal

What to do with the Walsh farm?

Jan 28, 2019 03:14PM ● By Cassie Goff

This area of the city, known as the Walsh farm, may be developed for apartment complexes in the future. (Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Heights)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

One of the first applications to utilize the Planned Development District (PDD) zoning in Cottonwood Heights has been causing quite a stir among residents. The application proposes the development of an approximate 34-dwelling unit apartment complex on 6784 South 1300 East, referenced frequently as the Walsh property or farm.

Since June of 2018, this application has been discussed in the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission. During that time, the commission has heard many resident comments and worked with the applicants and city staff to address some of the concerns from residents. 

On Nov. 7, the planning commission took action on the request from ICO Multi-Family Housings, LLC for a zone map amendment from R-1-8 (residential single family) to PD-x (a zoning designation prepared specifically for the subject property by the applicant, within the guidelines of Chapter 19.51 of the city code) on the property. 

“I believe this property should stay zoned R-1-8,” said Chair Commissioner Allen Orr. 

A positive recommendation for the application failed 3-4 with Commissioner Graig Griffin, Commissioner Jesse Allen and Commissioner Chris Coutts voting affirmatively while Commissioner Sue Ryser, Commissioner Douglas Rhodes, Commissioner Bob Wilde and Commissioner Orr voted in opposition. The commission ended up forwarding a negative recommendation to the city council. 

“We are sending something to the city council where we have raised the issues for their consideration,” Orr said. 

During the city council meeting on Dec. 18, the council heard from city staff members, applicants, property owners and residents who presented an overview of the application. 

“The applicant was in with the previous mayor and council with a concept plan and community meetings,” said Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson. 

The development plan incorporates that “10 percent of all units be senior housing with a 10 percent reduction for those who apply. We have proposed that the senior housing be stricken and instead incorporate a law market rate proposal,” Johnson said. The city staff analysis also recommends a tree preservation plan. 

“We have met or exceeded all the requirements in the PDD,” said applicants Chris Monson and Chris Longson, detailing how they have worked to exceed the requirements of setbacks, fire access, tree preservation, fence heights and increasing a landscaping buffer.

David Walsh, a member of the family who owns the property, addressed the council as well. “This property has been in our family for 70 years. What was once a rural area with a few homes has been developed by the county and the city’s vision consisting of multi-family residential housing. First, the Anderson property was developed; then the Brady property was sold and developed; then the Diverges property; and finally, the Smith property to the east was sold and developed. Not one time did our family object to the development that went on there. We request that you give our property rights the same consideration you would any property owner similarly situated. This process has been lengthy; it’s been over 16 months. We have been under agreement with ICO, and we are ready to move on to the next phase of our lives.”

Some residents were against rezoning the property, like Theresa Reich. 

“I don’t believe it meets the affordable or senior resident ratios that have been specified in the ordinances,” she said. “I do not believe ICO is willing to negotiate on those items.”

“Listen to what the neighbors want,” said resident Larry Weir. “Our bedroom is 40 feet from the property line. Please listen and take the recommendation of your planning commission.” 

“Public comment should be extended for at least another month,” suggested resident Jared Crocker. “This proposal would negatively affect the city and its residents. Many should not be penalized for the sake of the few.” 

After the Dec. 18, 2018 meeting, the city council extended the public comment session, hearing from more residents during their business session meeting on Jan. 8, 2019. 

“When we look at growth, we can choose what kind of growth we want,” said resident Deborah Case. “ICO is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and call it progress. This creates a haphazard environment. Look at Commissioner Orr’s recommendation; he voted against it. He rejected it because it does not meet the requirements. We can do better.”

As of publication, the decision to approve or deny the PDD application awaits a city council vote. The council is still receiving public input and will continue to do so as they deliberate their decision. The application will be voted on as soon as the council puts the action item on a business session agenda.