The Salt Lake County Council should, quickly and firmly, affirm the planning commission's recommendation to reject Terry Diehl's rezone request for property at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
There are simply too many downsides to the rezone for county residents and an upside only for the property owners and developer, who has pursued this project through two jurisdictions for a decade but has convinced few of its merits.
At a public hearing before the planning commission in June, opponents included the Wasatch canyons watchdog group Save Our Canyons, representatives of the Wasatch Mountain Club and Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. They cited harm to wildlife habitat, recreation and the fragile foothill terrain. The Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities pointed out that the water system servicing the 47 acres probably would be insufficient to support dense development that the requested FM10 zone would allow.
The current zone permits only single-family homes on half-acre lots. Diehl wants the higher-density zone, allowing multiunit high-rise residential and commercial buildings.
Officials of Cottonwood Heights have strongly opposed the rezone, since a previous version was approved by the county in 2003. When the city incorporated, Diehl's property was located within its boundaries. The city rightly rejected the plan, and Diehl went to court to have the property disincorporated. A group called Cottonwood Heights Voters presented an email list of 600, plus a handful of other neighborhood residents who oppose the rezone. Now it's in the County Council's hands.
The planning commission is right to be worried about what Diehl might do with the property if he is granted a rezone. The request doesn't require details about the project and, not surprisingly, none have been offered.
Among the worrisome possibilities are building heights that could reach 100 feet and "would be intrusive and impact mountain views," fire safety and transportation problems with the property's one access road, a steep "luge run" up from the Big Cottonwood Canyon highway not designed to handle a high-density development.
The commission also pointed out that the proposal is incompatible with the 1992 Cottonwood Heights master plan, and approving any foothills project is premature before the county updates its overall plan for the canyons.
All these issues were good reasons for the commission to reject the rezone request. They should also persuade the County Council to do the same.