By Aspen Perry | firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether residents were for or against the development proposed by Ivory and Woodbury, after seven months of public hearings and presentations, all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when the Holladay City Council unanimously voted to approve the revised site development master plan (SDMP) for the 57-acre lot.
“The vote this evening will bring to close seven months of robust, thoughtful debate — and has reinforced how much our residents care,” said Mayor Rob Dahle.
In comparison to the crowds that filled the cafeteria of St. Vincent’s during the planning commission’s public hearings, as well as those who filled the auditorium of Bonneville Jr. High during council hosted public hearings, the number of residents in attendance on May 17 to hear the council’s decision was more intimate, fitting comfortably within city chambers.
Of the handful of residents who addressed the council during the final public hearing, some called for a delay in making a decision, expressing concern over the process being rushed, which could result in an inferior project.
“I have grave concerns with the fact that a vote will take place tonight. It’s hard to fathom why the council would accelerate the process,” said Holladay resident Brett Stohlton, addressing the council.
Other residents, including Carol Spackman Moss, Holladay resident and House Representative of the 37th district, felt the community had waited long enough.
“I would argue to those who want to delay this even longer, that it’s been 10, almost 11 years. We have not been getting anything from that site for all this time,” Spackman Moss said.
She continued, “The time has come to move forward — this is a development that needs to happen now.”
Once all citizens had a chance to speak, the public hearing was closed and Dahle asked the audience to humor him as he read a brief statement — which he joked seemed fair given his receptiveness to the multitude of comments he received over the last year and a half (news of the potential development first broke in January of 2017).
One audience member jested back “three minutes” — the amount of time individuals were given to speak during the public hearing process.
Dahle addressed the concern of the council “rushing” the decision. He said in his over four-year tenure as mayor, not a single day had gone by without receiving one or more inquiries in regards to the lot in question.
He further explained that the project has been four years in the making going through various designs and plans. It only arrived before the council that evening due to the dedication of Ivory to not give up on the development when the initial round of plans was “scuttled” over two years ago.
“I would like to thank Clark Ivory, and the Ivory and Woodbury teams, for their willingness to invest hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of effort and resources on the application process,” Dahle said.
Dahle commended the residents of Holladay for their interest in the growth and welfare of the community, as well as for recognizing the work of the planning commission.
“Their recommendation sparked healthy debate within the community that resulted in positive changes to the plan,” Dahle said.
Dahle concluded by thanking the city planning staff for their countless hours of dedication to the residents and applicant.
From there the council spent just under an hour reviewing the SDMP with city planning staff and the developers. Topics ranged from signage policy to Councilman Lynn Pace requesting document language changes to ensure the developer would maximize retail opportunities.
A request that was welcomed by Woodbury, as they agreed maximizing retail space would benefit them as well.
Another item of contention in recent meetings was the potential to block left turns from the development onto Arbor Lane, as concerns of traffic were raised by residents in the neighborhood directly east of the development.
Some council members felt the left-turn block would result in a show of favoritism, given the number of requests that have been previously denied in other Holladay districts, specifically those of Pace and Sabrina Petersen.
Eventually a compromise was reached when Ivory and Woodbury agreed to place a cement deterrent to be located within the private property (not city property) and paid for at the developer’s expense.
Upon voting, council representatives provided background for their decisions.
Petersen, whose district includes the mall site, conveyed her appreciation to the developer for listening to community feedback and making adjustments.
“This is a team that I feel has received communication from the planning commission, the city council and the public, and taken it to heart,” Petersen said after voting to approve the SDMP.
Pace expressed his belief that the development would be an asset to Holladay’s future, noting the “meaningful” effort for both council and the developer to address all the concerns that were brought forth.
“Of course we would like more retail, of course we like to have more revenue and less impacts,” Pace noted before further stating, “but I am convinced this proposal is the best project that this property will afford, and will create a unique community center.”
Appearing to leave his final comments for those most hesitant to a change of this magnitude, Pace said, “I believe that we will look back and be grateful that we took a risk.”
District representative Steve Gunn kept his comments short and simple. “If I believed that we could do better by waiting, I would vote no, but I don’t believe that — I vote yes.”
Councilman Mark Stewart reminded constituents of the time already spent, with seven months alone spent dedicated to community feedback, while also speaking to the joy of watching his community be engaged in the future of their city.
“It’s been amazing to see the public engage,” Stewart said, who noted typical council meeting attendance during his first two years is usually one or two residents
“I’ve appreciated that they cared about the community, and believe we have reached a compromise that is best option for the site,” Stewart said.
With that, the chair — Mayor Dahle — voted yes, and the room took a brief breath before the RDA meeting commenced.
RDA — ADL Approval
Though at one time heavily debated on Nextdoor.com, of those in attendance at meetings of the ADL (agreement to develop land, also referred to as the tax incentive), opinions appear to have been fairly split.
As reported during the first RDA Board address of the ADL on April 19, only a handful of residents addressed the board, with mixed opinions, and on vote night, resident participation was similar.
Three spoke against the concept behind cities utilizing a tax incentive, with two proponents speaking on behalf of the benefits of tax incentives.
Ultimately the board voted unanimously in favor of the ADL, largely based on the “but for” premise at the foundation of the tax incentive concept.
Such decisions did not come easily, as new Councilman Paul Fotheringham said. “This is the piece that I struggled with; it was tough.”
Ultimately, Fotheringham described his understanding of the necessity of the development and how it meets the “but for,” which is at the helm of the tax increment financing mentality.
“Time doesn’t help us with land price, (or) density; 10–15 years from now density pressures would be much greater, and today is our best option,” Fotheringham said.
Ever the realist, Pace agreed with the “but for” premise, in addition to speaking of the reality of the situation.
“This is a packaged deal; if you don’t have the tax increment, you don’t get the project,” Pace said in his initial statement.
He further explained the unrealistic nature of expecting tax revenue, which is not currently being generated, as revenue lost. “If there’s no tax increment agreement, there’s no project, and then there’s no tax revenue at all.”
A unanimous vote passed in support of the ADL. For more information on future happenings as development goes underway, please refer to the cityofholladay.com website.