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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Rezone denied along Fort Union Boulevard

Aug 02, 2022 10:32AM ● By Cassie Goff

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

Zoning related issues and discussions are quite frequent within the governing bodies of Utah. For Cottonwood Heights, one of the most common zoning related discussions involves zoning along the major corridor Fort Union Boulevard. Recently, one plot of land requesting a rezone has sparked conversations about zoning for six months.

One of the main conversations relates to the city’s general plan update which is currently underway. The Cottonwood Heights City Council had to debate if a rezone based on the current, outdated, general plan would make sense when the new general plan is currently being drafted (Cottonwood Heights Tomorrow).

 “We are in the middle of an update to our general plan. It makes us cautious to make land use changes,” said Mayor Mike Weichers.

The rezone application in question was first discussed by the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission on March 2. Kelly Mcninch requested a rezone of 0.95 acres of land on 3526 Fort Union Blvd. from R-1-8 (Residential Single Family) to R-2-8 (Residential Multi Family). Accompanying the rezone would be a zone map amendment to change the current land use of Residential Office to Residential Medium Density.

The intent was to develop three structures of twin homes. Mcninch stated the land would continue to be residential use allowing for additional housing within the area. The development would seek to improve the corridor and allow for better passage along Fort Union Boulevard for vehicles, bikers and pedestrians.

In his narrative accompanying the application, Mcninch mentioned “the land would be revitalized into something newer and more modern.”

At the time, Cottonwood Heights City staff recommend approval of the rezone and zone map amendment for a variety of reasons. R-2-8 is a zoning designation that has been considered and approved for other properties along the same segment of the Fort Union corridor. In addition, they found that the adjacent property was zoned as R-2-8 but had two legal non-conforming family dwelling units that were built in 1978.

However, there was much opposition from the residents living within the area as three twin homes would bring more density and change the character of the neighborhood. 

“We have 90 signatures to keep the neighborhood single-family residential,” said Cynthia Blair, detailing a resident petition against rezoning the property.

“There is a high probability that this will be ski rentals,” mentioned resident Mary Ellen Johnson. “It is our responsibility to report those violations. We are asking you not to approve this.”

Ultimately, the Planning Commission recommend approval of the request because the zoning and land use designations were compatible with the goals for the General Plan. The final decision was then forwarded to the Cottonwood Heights City Council.  

“The applicant gave a great presentation on what he’s looking to do,” Weichers said. “One of the things that did concern us from the presentation was the affordable housing piece. These units would not help with affordable housing.”

On April 19, Councilmember Doug Peterson moved to deny the general plan amendment for the property. Councilmember Shawn Newell seconded the motion.

“It was an extensive process to get to our decision, including input from our residents, and input from the legal realm. We were thinking about the considerations of our community. Our decisions will be conducive to what we want as a community,” Newell said.

The majority of the city council voted to deny, with Councilmember Scott Bracken the lone dissenting vote.

“I am one and there are four people on the council with different views,” Bracken said. “I would tend to be favorable of the land use change to medium density as there are up to 30,000 cars on Fort Union Boulevard.”

Bracken moved to deny the rezone of the property to R-2-8. Peterson seconded the motion. The council voted unanimously to deny the rezone. With the denial of the rezone, a moratorium was put on the same request for the parcel for up the 12 months.  

On June 1, Mcninch came back to the Planning Commission with a different rezone request. This time, the application was to rezone 0.85 acres on 3526 Fort Union Blvd. from R-1-8 to R0-ZC (Residential Office with Zoning Conditions). Since the new request would comply with the existing land use, a zone map amendment request was not necessary.

The proposal was still for twin homes, but the different zoning would require additional buffering between the proposed and existing neighborhoods. Mcninch had agreed to restricted use which would eliminate any potential for commercial use on the property.

In addition, he had redesigned the proposed development to ensure a private drive, adequate parking, and requested setbacks. The new concept would increase the setbacks to 25 feet in the front of the property, 10 feet for the interior side, 25 feet for the exterior side, and 30 feet for the rear. 

“This would be the most restrictive in terms of setbacks,” said Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson. “The zoning conditions would be rather strict.”

With city staff recommending approval of the rezone, as the zoning designation would be compatible with the goals of the General Plan, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval to the city council. On June 21, Johnson discussed the refile with the city council.

“Our residents have made it clear they oppose the twin homes around Fort Union,” Councilmember Ellen Birrell said.

“It’s the same end result,” Bracken said. “It doesn’t make a huge difference on how many people are being put in there, even with the setbacks.”

“I would like to deny the rezone until the general plan update is completed,” Weichers said. “Ninety people signed the petition to keep it R-1-8. With the current zoning, it would stay a non-divided lot.”

The city council asked for the findings from a 2019 land use designation change which City Manager Tim Tingey researched and shared during the next meeting. 

“The land use change indicted the eastern portion of Fort Union as a transitional area and does not have the same character as the lower western portion,” Tingey said. “The city is in the process of updating the general plan and there is caution against making land use changes.”

On July 5, a public hearing was held regarding the rezone request before the city council called for the vote.

“I appreciate the offer to do larger setbacks and that would be the best offer we get,” Blair said. “Our neighbors want to stay single-family residential. Please vote against it.” 

“I don’t want to see it as a twin home,” said neighbor Robby McFarland. “It should remain single-family homes to maintain the character of our neighborhood.”

“Our area is such a target since we are so close to the ski resorts,” said resident Peggy Clark. “I would like to see this being single family as well.”

After the public hearing, Peterson moved to deny the rezone to RO-ZC with Ordinance 385-D. Newell seconded the motion. The council voted unanimously to deny the rezone.