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OREM OKS CONTROVERSIAL APARTMENTS

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Under the cloud of at least two lawsuits, Orem's City Council voted Tuesday to approve the controversial high-density City Center Apartments development at 100 S. Orem Blvd.

Residents opposed to the 210-unit project asked the council if it really wanted neighbors like Johansen/Thackeray of Salt Lake City. The firm has filed a lawsuit for as much as $12 million in losses and damages against Orem.An attorney and resident, Lori Huntington, said the neighbors involved were prepared to file an intervention suit in behalf of the city if the project went ahead.

However, resident Mike Agrelius, reacting to the council's approval, said Wednesday that residents will now file a lawsuit to stop the apartment complex instead of the intervention suit that was designed to help mitigate the threat of Johansen/Thackeray's action.

"I just think this is not in the best interest of the city," said Agrelius. "I sincerely believe that all these high-density apartments will come back to haunt us."

Paul Johnson, Orem's city attorney, told the council it could not take the lawsuits into consideration in making a decision on whether to approve the project.

Paul Washburn of Gardner & Associates, representing Johansen/Thackeray, said the developers' plans have undergone intense scrutiny and reflect changes requested by the city when they came before the council in May 1994 with a concept plan.

That plan was rejected.

The revised plans move the housing units off the corner of Center Street and Orem Boulevard and put only a temporary access onto Center Street and another onto the boulevard approximately 600 feet from the Center Street intersection.

Units will be two- and three-story, with amenities made possible only by retaining the high density between 19.2 and 14.7 units per acre, Washburn said.

He said the land has been designated for attached units since the 1970s under Orem's master plan. He said City Council minutes, including recent minutes, show a comfortable attitude toward development of the property into multiple units.

The property lies within two zones that both allow apartments.

"We have designed a project we think is best suited to this site," said Washburn, showing slides of developments surrounded by lush landscaping and augmented with tasteful features such as vaulted ceilings, rounded corners and oversize bedrooms.

"To our knowledge, we have met or exceeded the demands of the city," said Washburn."

Washburn said the units will be affordable housing by today's rental standards, $600 to $800 a month.

He projected the traffic increase from the project to be minimal for the two roads affected.

Agrelius said the site plan is not significantly different than that presented three months ago and rejected.

He said the rental units will bring in people who will push up the demand for city services without bringing up the tax base to support the increased demand.

Agrelius said commercial development would be a better choice.

He said he would rather see issues settled by elected officials than by "hired legal guns."

Huntington suggested the city wait to see how Johansen/

Thackeray's legal action turns out before they make a decision.

"Do not experiment on our city," said Huntington. "Wait for the other three high-density projects to be built before you do this."

If the city should choose not to wait, she suggested the homes affected be protected with a gate closing off entrance to their neighborhood, speed bumps or vacating the streets accessing the area.

Another resident, James Robinson, said the city should dictate that a maximum of 500 people could live in the City Center project.

Johnson told the City Council that they could not legally set a ceiling on renters and advised against waiting for the outcome of a lawsuit.

Mayor Stella Welsh said she would not wait for other apartment projects to succeed or fail. "What about free enterprise?" she asked.

"The developers have met every requirement," said the mayor. "I can find no valid, legal reason to deny it."

Councilman Stephen Sand-strom's motion to approve the project with minor changes, such as putting in a 6-foot fence instead of a 5-footer, passed with three dissenting votes.

"I'm just an ordinary citizen. I'm not a lawyer or an engineer," said Councilwoman Judy Bell. "I've listened, and I still believe the highest and best use for this land is commercial."