SANDY — Should the right to keep horses supersede market demands?
On Tuesday, Sandy City Council will be faced with the question when examining a rezone request approved by the city’s planning commission on Aug. 1. By a vote 4-1 vote, it recommended approval of the rezone that would break up 4.5 acres of land into quarter-acre lots. If the council OKs the measure, the new lot size would not allow farm animals in an area that has historically been equestrian friendly.
“Why we would take and rezone property that’s currently zoned for animals, and eliminate that possibility for anybody?” said Bethann Martin, who owns two acres of land and horses northeast of the proposed rezone.
Residents who spoke at to the planning commission earlier this month favored the project, noting they would welcome improvements to the uninhabited parcel.
Laine Fluekiger, who lives next door to the property, said “the house there has been abandoned for 10 years.”
Pointing out the developer’s plan to add a sidewalk on 11400 South alongside the property, he said it would “make things safer for kids walking down toward the park.”
Landon Moyers, who also lives nearby, echoed view, citing the dangerous conditions of an outbuilding on the property that “is falling down.”
“I worry about my little boys, I worry about their access to (the property), I worry about that not being contained” he said.
However a number of other residents fear the development would encroach on their animal rights. Martin and Monica Zoltanski, a candidate for the City Council, were among a group of neighbors in the area who were unable to attend the meeting but submitted emails opposing the project.
With the state experiencing the fastest housing and population growth in the nation according to recent census data, the topic of growth and development has been of central focus during this year’s primary election.
Zoltanski, who led a successful effort to stop the county from paving a popular equestrian trail at Dimple Dell Park, noted the issue of development is one of the reasons she is running.
“I want a thoughtful plan for balanced growth,” she said, noting that “there is a market demand for more housing,” however she would like to see this done “in such a way that we’re planning for the impact.”
With regards to the rezone, she said, “what I’m asking for is a balance,” which she noted can be achieved by “approving smaller lots, but still preserving the animal rights.”
Zoning in the areas directly east, south and west of the property allows for farm animals while zoning to the north conforms with the new quarter-acre lot proposal.
The project was presented to the planning commission by the body’s vice chairman, Cory Shupe, who owns an architecture firm and recused himself from voting on the rezone since he is representing the developer.
During the meeting, Shupe presented plans for an 18-unit subdivision with large single family homes that he said are valued between $800,000 and $1 million.
“These are not your tract homes, these are nice sized lots,” he said.
The planning commission discussed at length the option to preserve animal rights before recommending approval of the project.
“It seems that we are making a judgment call that this kind of life that exists in the neighborhood is over,” said Cindy Sharkey, who ultimately conceded to a yes vote after Shupe discussed market demands.
“In 2015 I didn’t order anything on Amazon, now I order almost everything on Amazon,” he said, adding that “we certainly could preserve animal rights but we are going to end up with larger lots that aren’t necessarily maintained” and are not “what the market is looking for.”
“I think it was probably one of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make as a planning commissioner,” said Sharkey, who is also running for City Council. “While I struggled with it immensely and may have set a record for how long it took to cast a vote” in the end “what the property owner was asking for was reasonable.”
Jamie Tsandes, who was the sole nay vote on the planning commission, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Despite multiple attempts to contact Shupe, he did not respond to a request for comment.
Residents expressed concern that the zone change would create conflict between horse owners in the area and new residents.
“When I moved back to Utah in 2003, I specifically came to Sandy because I had horses,” Martin said. She added that a developer bought a vacant lot to the north of her property and “got a zoning change, put in six houses on lots too small for horses, and they promptly began to complain about the horses.”
Though she noted that those who originally complained have since moved and current neighbors welcomed her horses, she said the phenomena is common.
“It happens everywhere, anytime you change the zoning and remove animal rights, the people who move in don’t really count on the fact they’re going to have some smell in the summer” and “a few more flies.”
Martin also expressed concerns that a number of residents had not been alerted to the commission meeting and said she felt this was the reason why the public who spoke out was in favor. Though residents who live within 500 feet of the proposed development were notified via mail, she said she felt others would also be affected.
Nearby resident Tiffany Keim also feels that the development would cause conflict between new residents and horse owners.
“I think it creates contention and I think what we should be doing is creating community,” she said, adding that “with the rise of depression or anxiety,” taking away communities is particularly problematic.
Her neighbor, Gerald Andersen, who also submitted an email in opposition to the rezone, said “it kind of violates the intent of this area. ”
In his email he noted that the property in question was only recently annexed into Sandy from the county’s unincorporated areas and called the move to rezone a “bait and switch” move on the city’s part since the annexation called for the property to remain zoned for half-acre lots.