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S.L., northern neighbor battle over boundary

North S.L. wants control of 80-acre open-space parcel

Salt Lake City boundaries are safe — for now.

City planners rejected a boundary adjustment Wednesday night that would move an 80-acre parcel of land owned by North Salt Lake out of Salt Lake City's jurisdiction. But the planning commission also recommended that the city council negotiate with North Salt Lake to buy the land or establish an alternate boundary.

The land east of the gravel pits on Beck Street is currently zoned for open space, but a boundary adjustment would allow North Salt Lake to turn 10 acres into residential development and the rest of the land into a cemetery and park space.

Salt Lake's planners postponed action on the issue in March, a move North Salt Lake Mayor Kay Briggs said allowed the proposal to languish for months without progress. In a letter to Mayor Rocky Anderson Oct. 14, Briggs said he gave Salt Lake officials 60 days to make up their minds on the proposal before he takes the issue to court.

For many Salt Lake residents voicing opposition to the proposal Wednesday night, the crux of the issue is that turning over zoning powers to North Salt Lake means relinquishing control over open space.

Although a cemetery is an allowed use under the open space zone, residents like Ralph Becker said anything but natural open space would violate the intent of the city's open space provisions.

"A cemetery would change forever the face of this place," he said. "It's unique and there is nothing like it in Salt Lake."

Peter Von Sivers, chair for the neighboring Capitol Hill Community Council, encouraged Salt Lake officials to raise money to buy the lot and preserve it. Briggs said appraisal estimates value the land at about $100,000 an acre.

"The united feeling of our council is that at some point we should be serious about not allowing urban sprawl," he said. "I think we've reached that time in Salt Lake."

Briggs, however, said he also wants to preserve open space in the area, but that North Salt Lake should be the one calling the shots on the land. North Salt Lake is the only city with road access to the acreage and so has to provide police and fire services to the area.

"The people of North Salt Lake have better access to the land than do residents of Salt Lake," said Bill Wright, North Salt Lake planning consultant. "We're the community that can best plan for its uses and enjoyment."