Study calls for a major development in S. Jordan
Jordan River • Future plans could include closing golf course, transit-oriented project near train station.
Published: April 5, 2014 10:12AM
Updated: April 23, 2014 02:44PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune South Jordan residents held signs on Saturday to raise awareness with passing motorists as they work to save Mulligans Golf Course from development.

The South Jordan City Council has released a consultant’s report it sat on for months suggesting closing Mulligans Golf Course near the Jordan River and using the 67 acres for a mixed-use development. It also recommends expanded development, including apartments, near the South Jordan FrontRunner station.

The city council will vote April 15 on a proposal to rezone 11 acres near the FrontRunner Station for transit oriented mixed-use development — a vote that already has been postponed twice.

A decision on the recommended Mulligans development will likely take months. But residents already are gearing up for a fight, with a handful of protesters picketing the site last weekend, urging preservation of the golf course and nearby river parkway.

Transit-oriented development • The initial city decision will focus on rezoning 11 acres, with a developer already proposing to build four four-story apartment buildings on five acres of the property.

That construction would be the first step in a larger-scale vision for a transit-oriented development in the future. Currently, the city has the area zoned as commercial.

Mayor David Alvord is not sold on the initial proposal for 302 luxury apartments on top of a bluff overlooking the river bottoms.

Alvord, who was elected in November, ran on a platform of expanding commercial development and focusing on single-family homes for residential growth.

In 2008, 80 percent of the residential growth in the city was apartments and condos, the mayor said. That slowed to 50 percent by 2012.

Alvord said the city has had enough growth in high-density housing recently. He said South Jordan has traditionally had a more rural feel and he would like to stay true to some of the founding principles of the city such as open space and single-family homes.

“Ten years ago there were very few multi-unit housing options in the city and they all started kind of to rush into the city and so I think the residents were a little bit in shock,” Alvord said. “That was a very big election issue.”

The mayor said the proposed apartments have merit, but he would prefer to keep the area as a commercial zone and believes that most residents feel the same way.

While some business owners in the area support the development and say the apartments would provide more customers, the mayor said perhaps these businesses should have picked a different location.

“I would put my business where people are currently located rather than hoping that a city will change their zone and allow apartments in. To me, it doesn’t really make sense to go in that order,” Alvord said.

Councilman Chuck Newton supports the proposed development and said for a transit-oriented development to survive it needs a mix of retail, commercial and residential.

Resident Janalee Tobias, meanwhile, has a sense of deja vu as she looks at the proposal for the apartment buildings and, further down the road, development on the current golf course. Several years ago she was one of the leaders in a failed fight to preserve open space along the Jordan River on the south side of 10600 So. Now she fears the same kind of development will take over the north side.

“The wildlife is gone on 106th South on the south,” she said. “When they start putting high rises on the north side of 106th South, all the wildlife will go away.”

Mulligans Golf Course • Tobias last Saturday helped organize the first of what opponents promise will be many protests over the city’s big-development vision.

“I’m so mad about it,” Tobias said. “Nobody knows about this. So everywhere I’ve been today I’ve been telling people about it and they’re livid about it.”

The “Save Mulligans” group carried picket signs and tried to signal a warning to like-minded residents about the demise of the golf course and surrounding open space.

“As more and more of Utah gets paved over and more green space gets taken up, the Jordan River is more important than ever. Any area around that should be a shrine. It’s sacred ground,” Tobias said.

Alvord said any decision about the golf course is months away — and “would come out of a long public process.” He favored development of the golf course during his campaign.

The consultant’s report, completed last May, but only released Wednesday after formal acceptance by the council, clearly favors development of the golf course.

“The development of the 67-acre Mulligans site represents a significant opportunity for the City of South Jordan to realize an effective contribution to community connectivity, economic vitality and development diversity,” ForestCity Enterprises said in its report.

“The Mulligans site has the potential to do extremely well in the retail market. Our findings show that the South Jordan market is capable of supporting higher-end services and retail.”

ForestCity’s analysis talks about a balanced approach to development that incorporates open space and holds the potential to become “a model of sustainability.”

One strong argument for closing Mulligans and developing the land is the cost to the city of owning and operating a golf course that is unpopular and a money drain, said Newton.

It regularly loses $5,000 to $8,000 annually, he said.

However, city financial data posted on the state’s transparent.utah.gov website indicates the golf course in recent years turned a profit more often than not.

Newton, though, said that operating profit does not reflect the city’s bond-payment obligation.

Also, Newton said the city did a survey early last year showing that 56 percent of respondents would support doing something else with the Mulligans property.

The golf course is not very good, he said, adding that he usually golfs at Fore Lakes in Taylorsville and that the South Jordan Chamber holds its luncheons and golf tournaments in Sandy.

South Jordan spokesman Chip Dawson said the consultant’s study is “food for thought” and a good way to start a community discussion.