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Salt Lake streams ordinance may be loosened

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A recent ordinance regulating development and activities along Salt Lake City streams runs a little shallow in common sense and education and in some areas is a bit too deep in restrictions, according to a consultant.

Chris Duerksen of Denver-based Clarion Associates on Tuesday presented a review of the controversial riparian overlay zoning district ordinance adopted by the City Council on Jan. 15.

The ordinance put in place restrictions on new construction, changes to existing structures and other ground disturbances within 100 feet of waterways in the city east of I-215, specifically Emigration, Red Butte, Parleys and City creeks.

Residents and landowners contended their rights were being taken away and their property values diminished by the restrictions.

After reviewing the ordinance and interviewing landowners and other interested parties, the consultants came up with a handful of recommendations to make the ordinance easier to understand and more flexible while still achieving the city's goal of protecting and enhancing stream corridors.

Duerksen suggested that the list of minor permitted activities be expanded to include tree removal and that minor expansion of homes be allowed if they're not moving closer to the stream. As currently written, the ordinance prohibits all expansions of all structures within the riparian corridor beyond their existing footprint.

"We heard more complaints about this than anything else," he said. "I think this is a common-sense provision that will hopefully make this ordinance easier to live with on a day-to-day basis."

Other suggestions include allowing the use of heavy equipment in certain circumstances with approval from the city; more flexibility for existing homes and increased setbacks for undeveloped lots; and offering incentives for property owners to restore buried sections of streams.

The consultants will present their findings to the public at an open house from 4:40 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. today in the fourth-floor conference room of the Salt Lake City Library, 210 E. 400 South.

In other city business Tuesday:

• The City Council, acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency board of directors, approved final construction drawings for two retail buildings and one office structure in the Marmalade project in west Capitol Hill.

The three buildings, to be constructed on the west side of 300 West between 500 North and 600 North, are part of planned 180,000-square-foot mixed-use development. RDA approval is still needed for the three residential buildings — containing 88 condominiums and townhouses — planned for the project.

Howa Capital is constructing the Marmalade project on land purchased by the RDA in the late 1990s.

• The City Council unanimously approved $128,000 in open-space funding for Wasatch Community Gardens to purchase the quarter-acre lot at 557 S. 400 East.

The money matches funds raised by WCG to keep alive the 25-year tradition of the planting and harvesting crops at 4th East Garden. WCG had been leasing the land.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com