The South Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency has suspended plans to proceed with redevelopment of the old Bennett Glass and Paint building.
The move follows the advice of the RDA's new attorney, Mayor Randy Fitts and city administration.Development plans hit a snag when a legal technicality cropped up two weeks ago. The RDA, which is also the City Council, decided Wednesday that an erroneous boundary description of the property could leave South Salt Lake open to lawsuits. The description appeared in a series of public notices last fall, but the RDA, which had made its way halfway through the redevelopment proceedings, agreed to begin the process anew May 17. In that meeting, the redevelopment agency is expected to adopt a survey resolution declaring intent to create a redevelopment project.
A final plan for the notorious corner of 2100 S. 300 West should be adopted by the first week of August, city attorney Kevin Watkins said. A 60-day protest period would expire during the first week of October.
Four of the six structures on the 8-acre site have been razed in the last month, including most of the warehouse tower earlier this week. However, Libra Group, which controls the property, is proceeding with demolition in hopes of securing financing from the RDA. Demolition and cleanup were sched-uled for completion by the start of June. The project is estimated to cost $750,000. It is unclear if the RDA's decision to restart the redevelopment process will hinder completion of razing and cleanup.
Jason Whitney, project manager for environmental closure at the site, said Friday that demolition crews were proceeding as scheduled, although labor shortages and surprise delays had set demolition back two weeks. Paul Jensen, principal of the Midvale-based Libra Group, did not return phone calls from the Deseret News.
"We will try to complete the process as quickly as allowed by statute. Statute requires so much public input in the way of hearings and notice requirements, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it," Watkins said. "The city can't make any commitments (for Libra's financing) now. We want to make sure (the RDA does) everything right and not run the risk of having the project area almost complete and having someone challenge it."
To better meet the challenge of redeveloping the old Bennett site, the RDA has hired local attorney Craig Smith. Watkins said Smith, an expert in redevelopment, municipalities and environmental cleanup, was better suited for the job than Michael Carlston, a real estate attorney who had counseled South Salt Lake since February. Carlston said the split was amicable.
In other Bennett news, Salt Lake County is hosting a May 23 sale of the property for unpaid property taxes. According to the Salt Lake County Treasurer's Office, $198,427.61 in back taxes are owed on the parcel. The Bennett family last paid taxes on the property in 1986. Bennett Glass and Paint went bankrupt in 1988.