Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

September 26, 2017
Growing pains

Requests for high-density residential projects require a balanced review 

You can tell when a city, town or community is challenged by new growth when its leaders struggle over where to allow high-density residential housing.

Both Tooele and Grantsville cities are dealing with that issue right now and are being pushed, in part, by developers and a local rental housing shortage to decide on zoning changes and/or evaluate master plans. So far, those decisions have not come easily.

After weeks of review last spring, the Tooele City Council turned down a zone change request for a high-density housing proposal at 2400 N. 600 East, but did approve a zone change for high-density housing at 850 N. 100 East. In both cases, the council faced changing the zones from commercial to high-density residential.

During work meeting discussions, council members expressed concern about the future appearance of Tooele City and how high-density developments may or may not fit in. The city has identified 17 city- and privately-owned properties that total 266 acres, and which could provide up to 3,000 residential units. Mayor Patrick Dunlavy warned at a work meeting the city must be “very sensitive” as to what it wants to look like. But high-density housing “put in the right place with the right project design, works well and fills a need.”

But making sure that combination works remains a gamble some city leaders find difficult to resolve. Take last Wednesday’s Grantsville City Council meeting, for example. In a 3-2 vote, the council tabled a decision on a zoning change appeal for a proposed 72-unit apartment complex on a 12.5-acre parcel southeast of the intersection of state Routes 138 and 112.

In a split 2-2 vote last June, with Mayor Brent Marshall breaking the tie in favor of denial, the city turned down a zone change request from commercial to high-density residential for the project. The developer appealed to the Grantsville City Board of Adjustments in August, which voted 3-1 in favor of having the city council reconsider the zone change request.

That appeal went before the city council last Wednesday. Some council members felt the zone change should be approved for the project, because the city’s long-range planning targets the area for high-density residential use. But others questioned if the city should take more time to review and not make a decision because of a development-driven proposal.

A motion to not reconsider the proposed rezone, and leave the council’s denial from June in place, failed by a 3-2 vote. The council next voted to table the rezone appeal for further review.

City leaders for both Tooele and Grantsville are wise to carefully evaluate all matters of high-density residential development. But with local rental and affordable housing presently at a premium, excessive evaluation could cause undue hardship to residents who want or need to live here — but can’t or don’t want to build or buy a home. As Tooele Valley’s population continues to grow, ideally, a balance of housing for all socio-economic backgrounds is a worthwhile goal to achieve.

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