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Defying a promised veto by the mayor, the City Council on Tuesday night narrowly endorsed the latest version of the Little Cottonwood Project, a 104-acre development on one of the last large open spaces in Sandy.

It was the latest in several long chapters of civic discourse on the project but won't be the last.Two of seven council members were out of town Tuesday and their votes will be crucial when the council convenes again on the project next week. Mayor Larry Smith says he will veto approval for the Magna Investment Ltd. project unless the developer agrees to drop its plans for an apartment complex.

"There's still negotiations between myself and the developer to settle this issue on the apartments," said Smith. "I'm absolutely committed to vetoing any zoning resolution for densities there now if we can't work out an agreement."

Smith says that combined with 30 acres of commercial development on the site and 23 acres of apartments - with most of the rest devoted to houses - the project would have too much impact on the surrounding residential area. Bill Papanikolas, Magna's representative, has said the apartments are essential to the financial viability of the project and that their effect on the neighborhood will be minimal because they will cater to upscale clients.

The Planning Commission last week reshuffled density distribution on the project, allowing up to 22 apartments per acre, instead of the original 15 per acre west of 2000 East (Highland Drive). It scaled back housing density east of 2000 East, however, from 10 to six per acre.

The Little Cottonwood Project would straddle 2000 East between 9400 and 9800 South.

The council asked city planners Tuesday to return next week with ordinance revisions that would permit the development as proposed.

The council would need a 5-2 vote to thwart a mayoral veto. It's uncertain whether an override veto is likely; the entire seven-member council has never voted on a resolution regarding the project, though in April five members split 3-2, as they did Tuesday.

Voting "yes" Tuesday were members Judy Bell, Dennis Tenney and Stan Price. John Winder and Scott Cowdell voted no. Bryant Anderson and Ken Prince were absent.