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Neighbors seek to stop construction of after-school kids club

Published February 19, 2014 8:07 pm

Campaigners say club will be out of place at new site.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • The Sandy Club, a Safe Place for Boys and Girls, operates in quarters so tight that kids play in the hallway and stow their games and toys in the kitchen. So the nonprofit bought nearby land in the city's historic district to build a new center. 

But some neighbors have been knocking on doors and passing out fliers in a campaign to stop the construction. They object to the building's "excessively massive" scale, say its design does not fit with the historic feel of the neighborhood and predict traffic and parking problems would increase in the area.

 The bottom line for opponents: 8768 S. 280 East is simply the wrong place for the organization that does good things for kids.

"A BUSINESS is being built in THE MIDDLE of our Neighborhood," their flier says. "It needs to be on a main road not on secondary roads surrounded by homes."

The Sandy Planning Commission was slated to vote Feb. 6 on a conditional-use permit and site plan for the location but rescheduled consideration until Thursday. The delay was suggested by Community Development Department staffers, who said in a report that they were "very concerned about the apparent confusion and possible misinformation" circulating in the neighborhood.

The nonprofit holds after-school programs for up to 120 elementary, middle and high school kids a day in the basement of the city Parks and Recreation Department, 440 E. 8680 South, about 1,000 feet from the new site.

The club, which has been at its current location since 1995, bought the one-acre lot last year. That vacant piece of ground was declared surplus property by the city and most recently was home to a senior center. 

Complaints started a few months after the property sale in October. Some residents wondered why they hadn't heard anything sooner about the plan to build a nearly 16,000-square-foot building on the site. 

And they didn't like the proposed look and questioned why children from 30 ZIP codes would be using the facility.

"Why isn't the design historically sensitive in the only historically zoned area of Sandy?" neighborhood resident Brooke Christensen asked.

She also wonders what would happen to the club, which she insists meets the state's legal definition of a business, when the executive director, Sandy City Councilwoman Linda Martinez Saville, eventually retires.

Katie Bradshaw said she also objects to the building's size and the possibility of parking spilling into neighborhood streets.

"We're all supporters of the club," Bradshaw said, "but this location is not the place for this large of a building."

Others counter that the location is the right spot to help kids who need the services. Tim Zuver, a neighborhood resident and vice chairman of the Sandy Historic Preservation Committee, said he is floored by the opposition because of all the good the organization does.

Sandy officials say the city mailed and published all legally required notices and followed the correct process in reviewing plans for the facility.

Jim Hofeling, chairman of the Sandy Club's board of directors, said two land appraisals were conducted and the organization paid the higher one, about $400,000. 

The entire project would cost about $2.5 million, he said, and the group is still raising money through fundraisers, donations and grants. Hofeling said the cost of retrofitting the current building to meet seismic-safety standards would be higher than building a new club.

"It was not a gift from the city," Hofeling said of the land sale. 

He added: "This is not a business. The definition of a business is you run it to make a profit."

The new club would serve about 200 children a day. Hofeling said most of them live in the surrounding neighborhood and would walk to the club. Some split their time between their parents' or grandparents' households, accounting for the 30 ZIP codes, he said.

The original plan called for a 15,272-square-foot building, most of it one-story high but one part rising to 34 feet to accommodate a gymnasium. Based on concerns raised at a public meeting in January and a public hearing earlier this month, the project has been reduced to 12,918 square feet and 30 feet at its highest. The parking has been increased by seven stalls to 36 total.

The Community Development Department is recommending approval of the club's use permit and site plan.

The lot has been used for public purposes since 1881, when Sandy's first schoolhouse was built there. Then came a high school, city hall, library and senior center. That center was demolished in 1998 because of structural damage and electrical problems.

Under a contract with Sandy, the land and the building on it would become the city's property if the club ever ceases operations.

On Friday, the club was filled with children playing games, doing homework and showing off their skills in the weekly talent show. They talked about how much they liked participating in the activities and seeing their friends.

"This is a safe place and I like being here," 6-year-old Miguel Villa said.

Lilibeth Galeana has been coming to the club since she was 6 years old. Now 19, she is a staff member there and the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from the club that will allow her to study for a bachelor's degree at Westminster College after completing her sophomore year at Salt Lake Community College.

"They helped to prepare me for college," Galeana said of the club employees and volunteers. "They mentored me my whole life."

Councilman Dennis Tenney, who serves as the liaison between the Sandy Club and the City Council, praised the club staff and volunteers for teaching youths respect, discipline and leadership skills.

"I'm convinced that once that facility is in, those who are the most ardent opponents will be the biggest supporters," Tenney said. "This club performs an invaluable function. It fills a huge humanitarian and social and educational need for children."

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC What's next

The Sandy Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to approve a conditional-use permit and site plan for the Sandy Club at a meeting beginning at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 10000 Centennial Parkway. The meeting will take place in Room 341 at the east end of the building.