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WOULD DEVELOPMENT TURN SUGAR HOUSE INTO JAM?

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Scrap Sugar House.

Call it Animal House.Two developers want to bring a hotel, three restaurants and more than a dozen shops to the northwest end of the already frenetic Sugar House Center.

Salt Lake residents packed a public hearing Thursday night to complain about the heavy traffic that already clogs narrow roads to the west, urging the planning commission to scrap some of the shops in favor of offices or condominiums, which would bring less traffic to the area.

Others complained about the approximately eight acres of parking that would dominate the 14-acre development.

After hearing the public's fears, the Salt Lake City Planning Commission decided to create a subcommittee to consider three possible changes to the project: Require a parking structure instead of surface parking, create more open space in the center of the project and eliminate some of the shops in favor of offices or condominiums.

Boyer Company wants to build six buildings full of shops plus two restaurants on 9 1/2 acres now known as the McIntyre Center.

Barnes and Noble Bookstore will likely move into the largest retail building, occupying 25,000 square feet of space. Starbucks Coffee is interested in the small restaurant space on the northeast corner of Highland Drive and Wilmington Avenue. The largest restaurant will overlook Parley's Creek west of Hidden Hollow, an area used by local schools as an environmental classroom. The tenant hasn't been named yet.

Homestead Village wants to put a 122-unit hotel and a third restaurant directly east of the Boyer project on the nearly four acres of land where the vacant Hygeia ice rink sits. The units would be small studios targeted for business people who travel to the city for extended stays, explained developer Richard Mendenhall.

Hidden Hollow, created six years ago by Kids Organized to Protect the Environment, will be preserved, developers assured the planning commission.

K.O.P.E. kids from Beacon Heights Elementary told the commission they support the development, but they urged the commission to slash the two vast parking lots in the middle of both proposed developments.

Nearby resident Anna Grace Bellis Sperry, 2660 S. Highland Drive, reflected the fears of many in her neighborhood when she complained about already relentless traffic. There is not a single moment between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. the following day when residents aren't bombarded by constant traffic and noise.

"The noise pollution, dirt pollution and exhaust pollution are unbelievable," she said.

"You have turned this into a `no man's land.' You have destroyed the neighborhood and ruined the real estate values. You've made it impossible for us to sell our homes."

If the city insists on letting big developers crowd into the Sugar House Center, change the nearby residential zoning so homeowners along Highland Drive can sell their homes to small businesses, she urged. "Let us benefit from the increased activity in Sugar House like the big developers."

Scott Kisling, chairman of the Sugar House Community Council, said the council supports the idea of the development but wants more open space, smaller parking lots and fewer shops that will draw traffic.

The community council would rather see a parking structure, more green space and offices or condominiums mingled among the shops, he told the commission.

"The community council is asking developers to severely modify their plans. We don't know if developers will want to do that," said principal Salt Lake planner Everett Joyce.

But the council stands on strong ground because the master plan calls for mixed use instead of strictly a retail development. "So even the city has said that's its preference for the area," Joyce said.

Barnes & Noble will dominate the biggest retail building on the southeast corner of 1100 East (Highland Drive) and 2100 South, occupying two floors of the building.

That proposal frightens independent book dealers who have already been hurt by Barnes & Noble's market dominance.

If Barnes & Noble moves into the new building, the company's Sugar House store will be almost twice as big as it is now, predicted Betsy Burton, co-owner of King's English.

The master plan prohibits a regional shopping center that would feature a giant discount store, she said. "The developers say they aren't going to bring in a giant discount retailer. But what is a national book store with that much space that discounts heavily? I think that fits the description."

Independent book dealers in the area have written to the commission about their worries, said Joyce.

Developers have already encountered some problems. Gas stations operated on the northeast and southeast corners of the properties years ago, Joyce said. Early tests reveal soil contamination that may require costly cleansing, he said.

The commission's committee hasn't been formed yet and may not report back to the commission for months.