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Salt Lake City Council bans demolishing buildings to create parking lots

Published November 28, 2012 7:58 am

City Council • Another proposal would preserve buildings in all areas of the city.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Read their lips – no demolitions of downtown buildings to make way for surface parking lots.

The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday evening unanimously adopted an ordinance that outright bans the practice in the commercial district from North Temple to 700 South between 200 West and 200 East. Previously such demolitions had been allowed as a "conditional use."

The ordinance also prohibits parking structures on block corners and on Main Street.

New surface lots will be allowed behind buildings and 75 feet from sidewalks.

Surface lots cover about 20 percent of downtown – some 55 acres. Councilman Stan Penfold, who sponsored the legislation, had characterized the acreage covered by blacktop as "sucking the life out of downtown."

The action is only part of the council's multi-faceted fight against blight.

Earlier Tuesday, the council was briefed by its staff on another aspect of the blight challenge – its proposed "demolition" ordinance. That proposal, according to Council Chairman Soren Simonsen, seeks to preserve buildings in all areas of the city.

The proposed ordinance, that has been three years in the making, would require property owners to keep vacant buildings and houses "habitable" – fit to live or work in.

It would allow for demolition only after a property owner submits plans for a replacement structure and obtains a building permit.

In rare cases, demolitions would be allowed if buildings or houses are deemed too rundown to repair. In that event, a property owner would have to provide a bond for landscaping and maintenance.

But Councilwoman Jill Remington Love wondered aloud whether the city needs a new ordinance or should simply provide more resources for enforcement of existing codes.

"I'm not sure we need a new ordinance," she said. "We need a [better] process. We're trying to … solve problems."

Councilman Charlie Luke said if the current demolition ordinance isn't being enforced, officials within Mayor Ralph Becker's administration should notify the council.

"I'm concerned there are decisions being made, choosing to enforce or choosing not to enforce, without the council knowing."

But Simonsen said a more aggressive ordinance is needed to make sure buildings are not torn down without being replaced.

A public hearing on the proposed demolition ordinance has been scheduled for Dec. 4.