After an hourlong closed session Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Council voted to move ahead with condemnation proceedings against coveted downtown property owned by business magnate Earl Holding.
Nothing is official, but a split vote of 4-3 by council members means a resolution authorizing the condemnation of the property is being drafted by the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office. Council members will officially vote on the resolution next week.
Coincidentally, the condemnation proceedings are at the request of District Attorney David Yocom, who has long asked county officials to agree with his efforts to obtain the 3.5 acres at the southwest corner of 500 South and State Street.
The intention is to use the vacant land for a new criminal justice services building that would consolidate the three divisions under Yocom's purview under one roof.
Although the county has approached Holding over the years in attempt to purchase the ground, county officials say Holding has repeatedly refused.
The county's tentative action on Tuesday came after a failed bid to purchase the former First Security Tower at 400 South and Main. The county's bid came in too low, leaving many on the council with the sentiment that Holding's downtown property is the next viable option.
"No one likes to condemn, but the location is so paramount, it makes some sense," County Councilman Randy Horiuchi said. "Had we been able to secure the bid on the First Security bid, we would not be in this position."
The county does have the option of moving forward to condemn the former First Security Tower site, but that avenue was rejected by several on the council as too costly and politically unpalatable because of its interference with a planned development.
"With Holding's property, you're basically looking at a piece of dirt," County Councilman Marv Hendrickson said. "There is no sense at the other site in buying, remodeling, tearing down and then rebuilding."
Hendrickson and Horiuchi were joined by colleagues Jim Bradley and Joe Hatch in voting to move forward against Holding.
Councilmen Steve Harmsen, Winston Wilkinson and David Wilde voted against it, with Wilde saying he was unconvinced the county didn't have more options.