The City Council gave tentative approval Tuesday night to a new shopping center at a busy corner where homeowners say it will create a traffic nightmare endangering the lives of schoolchildren.
The vote was 4-3.In a lengthy public hearing on the proposal, which would put the center on 8.5 acres at the southeast corner of 700 East and 7800 South, council members weighed testimony that ranged from pitches extolling the tax benefits it would bring Sandy to concerns that the project would create an over-com-mer-cial-ized neighborhood in the fast-growing city.
Several residents of the area noted the nearby presence of Union Middle School and Midval-ley Elementary School and said they were worried about the scores of children who walk along a street that will likely be widened to five lanes to handle increased traffic should the project go in.
"They would be walking from porch to porch" if the development and accompanying street expansion are built, said homeowner Russell Riddle.
The city annexed the area last year with an eye toward its potential tax base, and residents of the adjacent unincorporated county joined in Tuesday's opposition.
"We just really aren't represented," said James Clark, who noted that the Union Community Council made a strong recommendation to Sandy against the proj-ect.
City planners, however, say the location is ideal for a neighborhood center. The corner is one of the last open spaces along 700 East in Sandy.
Linda Twede, whose aging mother lives in a house in the center of the proposed development, read a letter from her mother stating that improvements like the developer promises are needed. Several homes in the area are unoccupied and deteriorating, she said, empty lots grow cluttered with weeds in the summertime, and old farm buildings are crumbling.
Duane Rasmussen, representing Johansen Thackery & Co., said the corner is already busy and that the street improvements the project will bring might help ease traffic bottlenecks there. Rasmussen also detailed the project's economic impact, predicting the center would do well over $30 million in gross annual sales, bringing a quarter-million dollars into city coffers each year.
That money, he said, would go a long way toward paying for 7800 South improvements and would be enough to add seven new officers at $35,000 a year each to the city's police force.
Residents remained skeptical, however.
"There are too many questions of how the widening of 7800 South will affect our neighborhood," said Sharon Patterson.
Tuesday's vote allows city workers to draft a zone-change ordinance permitting the project and precedes what will likely be final approval next week.
Council members Ken Prince, Bryant Anderson, Stan Price and Dennis Tenney voted yes. Judy Bell, Scott Cowdell and newcomer George McNeil dissented.
Tenney said his approval was conditional upon curb-and-gutter being installed in front of the shopping center. He also wants the city to install similar improvements along the length of the three-block widening of 7800 South.
Harmons, a popular Utah supermarket chain, is moving from its location at the Family Center about a mile north. It will expand from its 60,000-square-foot facility to 70,000 square feet at the new location.
The development, should it receive final council approval, would take two years to complete.