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North Salt Lake passes ordinance it hopes will stem problems with landslides

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2016 01:55 pm

Municipal » Damage caused by last year’s landslides prompted the upgrade.

After the devastation caused by last year's landslide that destroyed one home and damaged property, the North Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt a new geologic-hazard ordinance.

"We don't want it to happen again," said Mayor Len Arave in reference to the recent landslide. "Ordinances that we'd looked at had been formed several years ago, and I think development in general probably wasn't as sophisticated then and the city probably wasn't as sophisticated. We certainly want to avoid anything happening again."

Arave said after taking a look at the old ordinances, officials consulted the Planning Commission, which recommended that they be updated.




"So that's what we've done tonight," he said.

The adopted ordinance comes after several amendments were made to the original draft.

Ken Leetham, community and economic development director, used feedback from developers, City Attorney David Church, the Utah Geological Survey and GeoStrata to revise the ordinance before his presentation Tuesday.

The relevance of requiring drainage plans from developers was questioned in the meeting, but Leetham said the move makes sense.

"Maybe you could make the argument that it's less related to geological hazard as it is to flooding," Leetham said. "I think that we've experienced, even in the recent spring that we've just had, if we had engaged in a process of doing this, we might have prevented some flooding."

Minor adjustments were made during the meeting, including clarifications to some of the wording in the document.

The mayor also requested that Leetham's team look further into the possibility of requiring insurance from contractors, developers and engineers. Leetham said he briefly looked into the matter but said obtaining that type of insurance would be an obstacle for developers.

Arave said his question stemmed from the city's recent landslide, for which "nobody's insurance" covered the damage.

Members of the council also were concerned with helping residents understand the gravity and importance of following the ordinance because often landowners forget the rules they're presented with upon purchase.

City leaders hope to inform the public about the ordinance and dangers that would result from negligence through written information, publishing it on the website and compiling a pamphlet.

"The timing is good right now because people know that we had some issues up in Hillside," Leetham said.

Councilman Matt Jensen stressed that the City Council does not take full responsibility in educating the public and that residents should be held responsible for learning and following the ordinances.

"The same principle applies in this as it does in law enforcement," said City Manager Barry Edwards. "We only have a limited number of police officers, and we rely upon the public to help us, and I think that's the same thing that's going to happen."

He said that if neighbors see something illegal happening, they often report it. He hopes they will do the same with this ordinance so the city can step in if necessary.

Leetham said that although there is no penalty clause in the ordinance, because it's part of the land-development code, violation will be considered a Class C misdemeanor.

mnoble@sltrib.com

 

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