Residents of Salt Lake County's most densely populated and least serviced neighborhood won a battle Wednesday in their war against more development.
They succeeded in delaying a decision on an application for yet another apartment complex in a six-square-block area near 700 W. 3900 South, home already to 1,300 apartments and 3,500 residents.Known as Valley Center, the neighborhood has no schools, churches, parks, recreation facilities, grocery stores or other retails services. Also, because they are surrounded by major traffic thoroughfares and natural barriers, area residents - particularly children and the elderly - have limited access to services on the "outside."
Pointing to the skyrocketing juvenile crime rate, dangerous traffic conditions and deteriorating social conditions of Valley Center, resident Carolyn Alder said, "Our neighborhood is like a speeding car totally out of control and about to crash."
And one more apartment complex would be the "straw that breaks the camel's back," she added.
Saying that the area's problems were the product of poor planning by past administrations, commissioners said they would not approve more apartments in the area until the residents' concerns - including a request for a park and recreation facilities - are addressed.
At issue Wednesday was an application by developer Joseph Brunetti for a 72-unit apartment complex at 3993 S. 700 West. Commissioners said that while the Brunetti project "bent over backward" to provide amenities for its own residents, it could compound the neighborhood's problems.
"Until we resolve the open space issue, I don't think we're prepared to approve another apartment in that area," said Commissioner Randy Horiuchi, hinting to developers "in the wings" that they might be more successful if they cooperate in the effort to set aside park land for Valley Center.
Commission Chairman Jim Bradley proposed that a vote on the Brunetti project be postponed until the county settles the park issue and comes up with a recreation plan and other services for the existing residents.
However, he stressed that the county will also be taking the lack of affordable housing into account. Until more low-cost apartments are built, more people will end up sleeping on the streets and in parks, he said.
"We will have 2 million people crowded into this valley within the next 30 years, and our challenge is to make it work," Bradley said. "We can't say, `Not in my neighborhood,' every time one of these (projects) comes up."
Alder said the Valley Center residents understand the need for more high-density housing but wonder why so much of it is going into their neighborhood. "Our neighborhood can't handle any more," she said. "We're not a real community; we're just a dumping ground."
Several residents said the lack of recreation programs for area children has resulted in increasing gang crime activity. Valley Center averages seven calls per day to the sheriff's office.
"We're a community under siege," said Lupe Jimenez, who has had his vehicle stolen, his property vandalized and his grandchildren threatened by armed gangsters.
Bradley said the residents' concerns will be addressed by various county agencies and that future developments in the area will be required to provide more amenities.