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Site plan ruffles feathers

Proposed S. Jordan business area too close to temple?

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SOUTH JORDAN — City officials may have ruffled a few citizen feathers in their quest to boost sales tax revenue by luring business to a 10-acre redevelopment area near the LDS Church's Jordan River Temple.

Some concerned citizens say one of two proposals submitted by two separate developers would include putting in a Gold's Gym and a Fat Cats pizza parlor/bowling alley next to some citizens' back yards.

Even more irksome, residents say, is an initial proposal to serve beer at the pizza place, one block away from the Jordan River Temple.

South Jordan purchased the old South Jordan Elementary School property from the local school district just over a year ago. However, the city had discussed using the land for commercial use three years ago, so such plans now shouldn't come as a surprise to citizens, said city administrator Ricky Horst.

Horst said the City Council has recognized that South Jordan needs more businesses to fund the ever-growing demand for city services. Because the current tax structure has Utah cities relying heavily on sales tax revenue, many smaller cities, like South Jordan, are striving to attract more businesses.

The City Council, acting as the South Jordan Redevelopment Agency, will hear public comment on two commercial development proposals for the South Jordan Elementary School RDA site on Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1600 W. Towne Center Drive. Although the council is expected to take public comment, an actual vote will take place April 6.

Parkway Entertainment has proposed to build the Gold's Gym and Fat Cats facilities, along with other retail and office space, including a Kneaders sandwich shop and bakery. The total project would be around $24 million.

A second proposal, by Jensen Development, proposes a $20.1 million project that would include a mix of commercial and residential.

Although Jensen Development has not mentioned what specific businesses they would bring in, the group proposes building a buffer of homes around the commercial area, at a density of about eight units per acre. In the center of the project, higher-density condominiums of about 15 units per acre are proposed. Horst said this could be a problem, since the city currently does not allow such a density.

Preserving the old school building has also been a concern for many residents. Christine Southwick, who belongs to an independent citizen committee formed to review the redevelopment project, said many citizens are attracted to the Jensen Development because they feel it is more in line with the religious atmosphere of the area, citing the LDS temple as well as a nearby Hindu temple. "We have a community that is sort of religious-oriented," Southwick said, adding the Jensen Development seems to reflect the same "peace and quiet" attitude.

Citizens have also been won over by the Jensen Development group's efforts to preserve the school building, while Parkway Entertainment has plans to demolish it. Horst said he has serious doubts that the building can be used, citing extensive lead and asbestos problems.

Southwick, whose rear bedroom window faces the RDA area, said she fears the kind of crowd a gym and bowling alley will draw at late hours. Southwick said Parkway Entertainment has since dropped plans for the Fat Cat's bowling alley and has assured her and other concerned citizens that the Gold's Gym would not be open 24 hours.

But Southwick remains skeptical as to the crowd that will be drawn if Parkway Entertainment is selected. "It's not the kind of people who I want as my back-door neighbors," she said.

Horst said some citizens, while recognizing the city's desire for more commercial development, are taking a "not-in-my-back-yard" attitude.

Southwick said if there was a redevelopment project near Horst's back yard, he would feel the same.

Horst said the council can choose from the two project proposals, or reject both and start looking for other developers.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com