The saga of Draper's SunCrest development has been a sad tale, but there may yet be a silver lining. Draper City has purchased the undeveloped portions of SunCrest from Zions Bank for $5.6 million.
The 2,200 acres are adjacent to nearly 1,800 acres of open space, including part of Corner Canyon. The deal creates 4,000 acres of open space, unprecedented along the Wasatch Front.
The city will refinance two existing bonds at a lower interest rate and reallocate money from its capital projects fund to pay for the property. It will require no tax increase.
This is the first good thing to come of the SunCrest misadventure, other than a lesson for cities: Keep development off steep, unstable foothills.
The open-space purchase will preclude the building of 3,000 more homes on the property, added to 1,100 existing homes teetering on the mountain separating Draper and Utah County. Many of them never should have been built.
The owners of those homes likely will face higher fees from a special service district created to pay for needed street repairs and upkeep. They rightly protest that would be unfair, but it is better than further development of land that shouldn't have been developed in the first place.
Streets are too steep and some have failed. Much of the development clings to hillsides that are unstable; getting enough water is a problem.
Draper City officials should have listened to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who have mapped all of Salt Lake and Utah counties and know which slopes cannot bear the weight and disturbance of construction. The Draper City Council should have stood its ground and refused to allow the original owner, SunCrest Development, to create home sites and sell them to unsuspecting buyers. The city erred again when it accepted ownership of streets without thorough testing.
Draper has been in and out of court over the boondoggle for years, and repairing roads and fixing other problems has cost the city millions. Zions Bank acquired SunCrest in a July 2008 bankruptcy sale. Later, the bank sued Draper and sold the property to an Arizona company. That company backed out in June, also blaming conflicts with city officials.
The city, the original developer and home buyers who neglected to do due diligence must share the blame for the mess.
Draper has made far too many bad decisions regarding this property. But preserving what remains as open space is not one of them.
See more about comments here.