Public comment sessions open for gravel pit proposed development planMay 12, 2021 11:25AM ● By Cassie Goff
Public comments are now being heard by the Cottonwood Heights City Council regarding a proposed development plan for the gravel pit along Wasatch Boulevard. (Rockworth Development/Cottonwood Heights)
By Cassie Goff | [email protected]
Current drafts of the proposed development plan for the north end of the gravel pit (formally known as Wasatch Rock) are under review by the Cottonwood Heights City Council. The proposed development (21.56 acres) would be constructed on 6695 S. Wasatch Blvd., surrounded by SR-190 (Wasatch Boulevard), the Gravel Pit, and Gun Club Road.
As of publication, the proposed development plans include nine buildings in total for apartment and condominium buildings, a hotel, and two mixed-use commercial buildings (office over retail). The proposed development is required to have ample public space within a public plaza (39,771 square feet), trails and trail connections. Through hillside reclamation, the development will be partially constructed into the mountainside.
“This was an opportunity with the Planned Development District for the developer (Rockworth Development) to give Cottonwood Heights a gateway project that serves for a long time coming,” said Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission Chair Christine Coutts.
Apartments are currently planned to total 325 apartments (107,000 square feet in seven stories). Condominiums are currently planned to total 99 condominiums (23,036 square feet in 13 stories). Between both the apartments and condominiums, 637 parking stalls are planned with two different lots, utilizing surface and garage parking. A total of 10% of the apartment and condominium units will be provided as affordable housing. Residential parking is planned to be contained within parking structures to limit visual impact.
The condominiums are likely to be the tallest buildings within the proposed development. Renderings have been submitted from eight different viewpoints of the surrounding area as concerns from the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission and City Council about building height have been repeatedly voiced.
“The condo building is the tallest one you’ll see there. It’s also the closest to the residential area,” said Coutts.
Current plans for the hotel include 140 rooms (totaling 11,803 square feet in five stories); two retail pads (totaling 10,000 square feet in one story); two mixed-use pads (totaling 18,636 square feet in three stories); and two additional retail pads (totaling 8,400 square feet in three stories).
The Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission, Architectural Review Commission (ARC), and City Council have been working through the details of this proposed development plan intensely with city staff members over the past year, even though the early beginnings of this project can be traced back to 2018. This is a rather unique proposed development plan as city members are highly involved with the design process, a stipulation granted under the approval of a Planned Development District (PDD) zone.
“What is being proposed needs to be looked at with the impact to the community,” said Community and Economic Development Director Michael Johnson.
As the entire gravel pit development (not just this currently proposed north section) will eventually serve as a gateway into the canyons, and potentially a destination, many residents and city members alike have concerns regarding increased traffic. (Not only for the gravel pit development, but for Wasatch Boulevard and canyon traffic as well.) The northern piece of the gravel pit currently being planned is the only section without the same owner, as it is owned by AJ Rock, LLC.
For months, the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission held public comment on the proposed development plan. One of the recurrent concerns from Holladay City residents is the potential traffic impact to Old Wasatch Boulevard, the section of Wasatch Boulevard branching from SR-190 off to the east, then north from the intersection. Over 100 comments have been documented regarding the issue.
On April 6, Johnson and Cottonwood Heights Public Works Director Matt Shipp reported on efforts to establish a compromise with the developer and Holladay residents, a three-way intersection with a free-flow for residential traffic will be incorporated at the crucial intersection point. The road at which point will be realigned.
“We will have to change the entrance point (of the development from Wasatch Boulevard) because of a traffic analysis specifically looking at intersections with over 300 trips for traffic per day,” said Ryan Hales of Hales Engineering (Rockworth Development consultant) on Feb. 16. 2020.
In efforts to reduce traffic and eliminate individual vehicles, city members are requiring the encouragement of public transportation within the currently proposed development. City Councilmember Christine Mikell stated she won’t sign off on anything until she sees a plan from the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). Coutts reported in January that UTA plans to connect through the center roadway of the proposed development.
“There may be opportunities for public transit, pedestrian, and vehicle circulation,” Johnson said.
For years, city leaders have worried about the City between the Canyons becoming a parking lot for the canyons. With the potential of 1,300 parking stalls in the currently proposed development draft, city leaders have continually circled back to carefully crafting the parking areas.
“We don’t want you to feel like it’s a sea of parking,” said Adam Davis from Rockworth Development, addressing 5.5 acres with 318 parking spots in January. Residential parking has been planned to be contained within structures while visitor parking may be the most visually concerning. A previous development plan drafted for a December meeting included two roundabouts and angled parking.
“I think the surface parking could be a lot better,” admitted Coutts on Jan. 19. “It has the potential to feel like a glorified strip mall and I will hold them to what they are saying they will do there.”
Hillside Reclamation and Landscaping
City leaders have been working to ensure residents can feel comfortable with the proposed development plan and, once developed, be able to access amenities. The city council frequently questions if the development feels out of place for the city’s character and if there’s enough open space for residential use. In considering how the currently proposed development will ultimately look and function as one of the main entry points into the city and canyons, city personnel often discuss hillside reclamation, sensitive lands, landscaping, open space, and trail connectivity with Rockworth Development.
“The gravel pit should be a walkable place with trail connectivity and public parking,” said Coutts on Jan. 19. “We are starting to get to a place where it is really walkable.”
City personnel would like to see trails developed on the hillside as part of the hillside reclamation counting as open space (28% of the total site), including a public trailhead to connect the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and a direct connection to the Big Cottonwood Trail, with some amenities.
“I pushed pretty hard to make sure we had easements to the future multiuse trail along Wasatch Boulevard and it would continue all the way through,” Coutts said.
Hillside reclamation will be an important part of the gravel pit developments as construction will take place within and alongside the Wasatch Mountain range. The land for the proposed development site is designated as a sensitive land area, so hillside reclamation has been discussed in sensitive lands meetings (especially in terms of minimum development requirements). Rockworth Development has consulted Gordon Geotechnical for conducting sensitive lands studies.
On Feb. 16. 2020, Adam Davis, Ryan Hales, Serra Lakomski and Tom Henriod from Rockworth Development met with the Cottonwood Heights City Council to discuss hillside reclamation, landscaping and the public plaza in terms of public open space.
The large plaza design will include attractions to the public, including seating and walking features. “We will want to have landscape and hardscape for pedestrians in the plaza,” said Henriod.
Landscape, including the trails, hillside, plaza, and landscaped area, is planned to take up 53.9% of the total site area with 509,160 square feet. Hardscape, including roads and parking stalls, is planned to be 27.2% of the total site area, with 256,806 square feet.
A comprehensive landscaping plan has been drafted for the proposed development site which includes detailed options like shrubbery and xeriscaping.
As the Wasatch fault line runs parallel to Wasatch Boulevard, earthquake safety for the gravel pit developments has been heavily evaluated and discussed.
“There are absolutely some challenges. Fault lines have been identified and setbacks have been incorporated,” Johnson reported.
On Feb. 2, Tim Thompson from GeoStrata (city consultant reviewing technical engineering documents), presented an in-depth analysis of the seismic activity on the property. “Liquification is very low. Shallow ground water has been encountered. Rock fall has been cleared for the whole site. There are no outcroppings that would cause rock fall.”
Thompson voiced some concerns regarding the stability of the slope towards the back (northeast) of the proposed development site. “We want to make sure that slope is stable.”
As of publication, GeoStrata was still in the process of identifying potential hazards and studying the numerous fault lines running through the property. After their analysis, Rockworth Development will be required to detail the site-wide hazards and their plans to mitigate those hazards.
“We will need them to trench the exact location of every building before they build to make sure it’s OK. We will make them trench again and again,” Thompson said.
Planned District Development
City leaders and staff members are able to be so involved detailing all aspects of the development plans as the proposed development will be zoned as a Planned District Development (PDD).
“PDD is a legislative action, rezone, and setting a master plan at the same time,” Johnson said. “A PDD writes an ordinance that applies only to the property which becomes code and law we implement on the property.”
“The developer worked with us for a long time and they were quite responsive, which is the hope with the PDD,” said Coutts on Jan. 19. “This is an opportunity for developers to partner with us and to figure out what works best. They are writing the zoning along with us.”
PDDs are required to include proposed development plans to the city up front. Within other zoning designations, developers are not required to show city leaders and staff members development plans. This is one of the main benefits of the PDD for the city as city leaders are involved in planning developments. The tradeoff for developers is the potential for more density.
In response to a question about what the city would be gaining interactionally for density from Councilmember Mikell, Commissioner Coutts answered, “sensitive lands, landscaping, Bonneville Shoreline Trail connection points, and pedestrian crossing and connections throughout.”
In October 2020, Rockworth Development requested the city’s affordable housing requirements be altered for their specific PDD ordinance. The city required 10% of all development units to be affordable based on 50% of the community’s area median income (AMI). Out of the 418 units proposed in the previous development plans, 42 units would need to be affordable.
In August 2020, “the current plan only identified 35 affordable units,” Johnson reported.
Rockworth Development requested the affordable housing requirement be based on an 80% AMI, instead of 50% AMI. For months, the request was deliberated by the planning commission and city council as they talked through the reasoning, consequences, and benefits with city planning staff.
“They knew what was in the application when they submitted. It’s a critical issue, not just in the city, but statewide and nationally. If we were going to allow bumping up the income, then we wanted to see more units available,” Coutts said.
Rockworth Development will be required to provide 15 percent of the residential units at eighty percent AMI.
PC with CC
On Oct. 21, 2020, Commissioner Bob Wilde moved to recommend approval of the request from AJ Rock LLC for an ordinance and zone map amendment under the conditions that any ‘Outstanding Issues’ be adequately reviewed and addressed, improvements are made to trail and open space on the hillside section, Rocky Mountain Power agrees to buried powerlines, and subject to the Architecture Review Commission and the Utah Department of Transportation approval. Commissioner Craig Bevan seconded the motion. It passed 5-to-1, with Commissioner Douglas Rhodes voting “nay” and Commissioner Sue Ryser not being present for the vote.
“One of the ARCs conditions was that the vegetation and decorative wall separating the state road (SR-190) and project is high enough to block street lights coming into the site,” Johnson reported on Feb. 2.
On Jan. 19, Chair Coutts met with the City Council to recap the Planning Commission’s conversations and their recommendation of approval.
“This is a very visible site,” said Coutts. “We spent a lot of time asking questions and making sure the developer was responding to the gateway and overlay district. It was on our agenda monthly for a long time.”
Coutts relayed how they had received many resident comments from Holladay residents living in Canyon Cove as the proposed development’s traffic and access will affect their neighborhoods. In addition, many Cottonwood Heights residents, especially those living in the Old Mill area, shared concerns about height and traffic access.
“Holladay City joined into the conversation to share concerns and partnered with us, which was much appreciated,” Coutts said.
Over the past year, the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission, City Council, Architectural Review Commission, and Parks, Trails, & Open Space Committee, city attorney, city engineers, and city staff members from the Community and Economic Development Department, Public Works Department, Police Department, and Fire Department (Unified Fire Authority) have discussed elements of this proposed development plan with other municipal entities (like the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake, Salt Lake County, UTA, and Rocky Mountain Power), outside consultants (mentioned above), and Rockworth Developers and their consultants in order to come up with the currently drafted proposal for the development plan.
However, the origins of this plan date back to February 2018 when the previous council attended a site visit and a preliminary concept plan was discussed. The application for this specific site was received in August 2019 and introduced to the planning commission in October. They worked through it until January 2020 when it was introduced to the Architectural Review Commission.
During the autumn months of 2020, the Planning Commission continued to work through detailing multiple elements of the proposed plan and held six public hearings. In that time, they received about 100 unique public comments, most from Holladay. In mid-October, the Planning Commission recommended approval with a vote of 5 to 1.
On Dec. 15, 2020, Cottonwood Heights City Council members requested more information from city staff members, which they will be working through until the end of May. Councilmember Tali Bruce requested more information about the fault lines on the property and outdoor amenities. Councilmember Mikell wanted to discuss building height and additional opportunities for the public to make comments. Councilmember Scott Bracken requested a meeting focusing on traffic. Councilmember Doug Peterson requested more information on the terrain of the site and trails. Mayor Mike Peterson also hopes to talk about traffic, building heights, hillside reclamation, and trails, along with the relationship with UDOT for this project, coordination with Holladay City, and clarifying the role of the PDD.
As of publication, Johnson and city planners are responding to itemized council concerns in biweekly city council meetings. “We are wrapping up conversations with Holladay. We will get a comprehensive list of the concerns from council members and the mayor to go through them in detail,” said Johnson on Feb. 16.
In the meantime, Rockworth Development and their consultants from McNeil Engineering, Gordon Geotechnical, and Hales Engineering continue to incorporate feedback from Cottonwood Heights governmental entities, staff members, geotechnical team, and Holladay city engineers.
There will be “public meetings for people to come in and look at the plans,” said Coutts.
The Cottonwood Heights City Council will continue to take public comment throughout the next few months as they discuss the specific issues listed above. As of publication, public comment specific to this proposed development has been scheduled for May 4 and 20, after a full project summary has been reported to City Council during a work session. After which, a final written ordinance must be completed to apply zoning to the site, ultimately making the project possible. By May 18, unless anything major comes up, Johnson would like to have a final document for the PDD ordinance and development plan in front of the council ready to take action.
“What the council decides doesn’t immediately allow developers to start building,” explained Johnson. “There are numerous steps between now and actual on-the-ground development. A final decision on the current application represents a rezone of the property, a new ordinance that governs development on that property, and a detailed site master plan showing location and type of roads, landscaping, open space and sidewalks.”
If approved, development would only begin in phases after each phase has revisited the Architecture Review Commission for site plan approval. Then, each phase will need to acquire its own unique building permit.
“Phase one and phase two will be the apartments for rent, hospitality, and retail mixed use. Retail and condos will finish the project off. We would come to you if there are any changes,” said Tom Henriod.