Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

November 9, 2022
Plans to build Harris Community Resource Center halted by building design concerns

A site plan review was tabled by the Tooele Planning Commission last month over apartment building design plans, stopping developers from breaking ground on the Harris Community Village until an agreement on apartment building design can be reached.

The planning commission considered the Harris Community Village site plan during their Oct. 26 meeting. 

AJC Architects, a planning and designing firm, helped Switchpoint determine what the project will look like.

Switchpoint is the nonprofit organization that will oversee, manage, and run the Harris Community Village. 

The Harris Community Village is located on the site of the old Harris Elementary School at 251 N. First Street in Tooele City. It will be a facility providing services for individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The facilities sit on 9.38 acres in a multi-family residential zone. The village will include the remaining part of the old school building, which will be converted into a resource center that will offer support services including a food pantry, child daycare and other support programs. The daycare was approved by the planning commission the summer of 2022.

The other services in the school building itself did not need to be approved by the planning commission, as they were compliant with the zone regulations and were not included in the site plan review.

As part of the site plan review, Tooele City planning and zoning administrator Andrew Aagard explained that an apartment complex will be constructed to the southwest of the old school building.

The Tooele County Housing Authority will oversee the apartment project, which will include a multi-level buildings with a total of 66 units. The apartments will be for individuals and their families recovering from various issues and will include studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedrooms.

Parking areas will be located west and south of the buildings and east of the community resource center with 99 parking stalls total.

The northern portion of the property will not be developed at this time, according to Aagard.

In order to be approved, Tooele City officials told Switchpoint that they needed a 25% landscaping ratio, which they plan to comply with.

The landscaping area will be located between the residential apartment buildings and the resource center. Over 130 new trees will be planted on the site as part of the landscaping agreement.

Aagard spoke about architectural requirements, including a city ordinance about balconies. The ordinance states that each unit that is not on the ground floor must have a balcony.

“The intent of the balcony requirement is to provide horizontal relief, so you don’t have a large, flat wall,” he told the commission.

When city officials talked to the developers about the balconies, they were hesitant, because they didn’t believe they were safe for the individuals who would be living in the apartments.

After speaking to developers, city officials agreed that a shade awning could be put above each apartment window to provide horizontal relief, which Switchpoint agreed to. There is one problem, though. The awnings are too small, according to Aagard.

“I’m not entirely convinced that that satisfies that requirement for horizontal relief,” Aagard said.

Other ordinance issues include the lack of bay windows on the ground floor, lack of vertical elements, which could include pillars, and lack of decorative trim on windows on the front of the buildings.

On the south and west property lines, Switchpoint will be required to install a six-foot fence that will separate single-family and multi-family homes on other properties from the Switchpoint property. They have not yet determined if they plan to build the fence according to code yet.

After Aagard’s presentation, planning commissioner Paul Smith voiced his concerns about design.

“This doesn’t look like a home,” he said. “Make it a home; don’t make it a prison. This looks like a prison. It really does.”

At the end of the meeting, DeAnn Christiansen, director of the Tooele County Housing Authority said designers tried to make the building look like a home.

“I don’t feel like it looks cold and harsh,” she said, responding to Smith’s concerns.

Smith recommended that designers start over and create another design.

Christiansen also addressed concerns over balconies.

“We don’t want balconies, because we don’t want people to sneak other people in,” she said. “We want to have control over who is coming and going.”

After the discussion, Chris Sloan, vice chair of the commission, recommended that the site plan be tabled until trim, awnings, horizontal relief, and pillars are discussed further.

All members of the commission voted to approve Sloan’s recommendation.

“This project is important to me,” Sloan said. “It’s important to all of us. Let’s get together and get it done. We are so close after this being in years of the making.”

Staff and developers will talk further about the issues and a decision about the site plan will be made in an upcoming meeting of the planning commission.


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