Judge asked to nix taller buildings in Cottonwood Heights project
By pamela manson
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jan 29 2013 02:45PM
A lawyer says that a group of Mill Hollow residents was expecting a campus-like project of two-story office buildings to be constructed adjacent to their homes in Cottonwood Heights based on restrictions on that property dating back years.
But developers of the Cottonwood Corporate Center development now are planning high rises and a parking structure instead. And on Tuesday, attorney Wade Budge asked 3rd District Judge Anthony Quinn to overturn the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission’s approval of a proposal for one four-story and one six-story building, plus a parking structure.
Budge, who represents neighbors opposed to the construction of the taller structures, said city ordinances required the commission to determine the project would not have an adverse impact on the existing neighborhood and would comply with the master plan for the site. However, the commission approved the project in June without making those findings, he said.
Lawyers for the city and the developer countered that the process was legal, the project follows applicable standards and numerous steps were taken to mitigate the impact of the project on the Mill Hollow neighborhood.
Quinn took the issue under consideration and will make a ruling later.
The 9-acre project is the final phase of the 44-acre Cottonwood Corporate Center development near Interstate 215. Under agreements that date back to the mid-1990s, developer John West — who is now with Cottonwood Partners — was to limit building heights bordering the neighborhood to two stories totaling 154,000 square feet. Parking would also be at street level.
West sold the parcel to Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah but is now buying it back. The plan calls for one four-story and one six-story office structure, which together will exceed 263,000 square feet, and a two-story parking garage running parallel to residential backyards.
Residents who live near the property — between 2700 E. and 2800 E. Cottonwood Parkway — say they’re concerned about noise, traffic and declining property values, and a group of them filed suit in September. Budge said the neighbors are not against development of the site but want the low buildings that they expected based on the original agreement.
The developers have said they will work to accommodate the residents’ concerns by, among other actions, lowering the space between floors; using compactors for trash and recyclable to reduce pickups by waste removal services; and covering concrete wall with "green screen" that will allow ivy and vines to grow.
Hamid Omana, one of the plaintiffs, said after Tuesday’s hearing that the city should have held the developers to the agreement.
"We had to take the role of the government," Omana said of the lawsuit.