The Salt Lake City Planning Commission approved a commercial development at the mouth of Parleys Canyon, consoling upset residents with a commitment to rezone a disliked Kmart nearby.
The rezone would limit Kmart's ability to make improvements to its store and could squeeze the retail store - or others like it - out.Woodbury Corp. now has the impetus to build the 88,000 square-foot office clustered complex and restaurant after three years of public hearings, subcommittees and plan concessions.
Developer Jeff Woodbury couldn't fix the neighborhood's dislike for the Kmart adjacent to the seven acres Woodbury Corp. owns on the hillside on Parleys Way. But he won approval from the commission after they deflected neighbors' dislikes for the Kmart by suggesting a rezone of the store's property.
A rezone would not affect Kmart's current business but would limit the store's options if it wanted to remodel or end its lease on the property.
In a public hearing Thursday, residents and representatives of three community councils echoed concerns of further congesting already inadequate roads and the new complex being a blight on the city's eastern gateway.
Blight is too nice a term for what the Kmart is, residents said.
"It is a menace in the winter and a beast in the summer," said Leon Halgren, who opposed the store when it went in in 1960. "It's been a weed patch for more than 30 years."
Charles and Mable Wilson looked at the "beautiful nature" from their home on Parleys Way, until Kmart was built. Now they can sit in their front room in the middle of the night and read by the parking-lot lights of the large retail store.
Planning director William Wright said the city and the developer both contacted Kmart officials about the development. But, filing the petition is an "attention-getter" that will, hopefully, bring officials from the Troy, Mich.-based company into the process of looking for a solution, Wright said.
Downzoning the Kmart site to a less intense commercial use would be the most preferable outcome, Howa said.
The Salt Lake City Council would have to approve a zone change.
Commissioner Richard J. Howa said Woodbury had met every requirement, leaving no basis to deny its application for a conditional use permit. The project is considered conditional use because Woodbury is building one 88,000-square-foot building on the 41/2 vacant acres acres rather than five 20,000 square-foot buildings, which he could do under the city's zoning codes.
Commissioner Judi Short was the only planning member that voted against Woodbury because "we're designing in a crummy corner and there is no good solution."
But, developer Jeff Woodbury reassured the Planning Commission that he has done everything to ensure the development will benefit the area. A subcommittee set up of people on both sides of the issue suggested - and Woodbury agreed - to use only non-reflective glass, quality stucco and tile, shorter lightposts, buildings lower than Foothill leaving the view intact and more landscaping than is required by city ordinance.
The intersection at Wilshire Drive will be moved in-line with the joined entrance to the Woodbury development and Kmart and a traffic light will be installed. Residents said the plan still doesn's solve all the traffic problems on Parleys Way and Foothill Drive, pushing drivers to filter through neighborhoods.