Salt Lake City rejects plans for a gas station next to Sugar House Park. Now what for that site?

Planning commission votes 9-1 to kill the proposal, but the developer intends to appeal.

(Galloway & Co.) A rendering of a proposed Kum & Go convenience store and fueling station at the busy Sugar House corner of 2100 South and 1300 East in Salt Lake City. The planning commission has rejected the plan.

A new Kum & Go gas station proposed near Sugar House Park is instead a no-go.

Worries over the station’s effects on the popular park, neighborhood traffic and potential fuel leaks or runoff that might taint nearby water supplies led Salt Lake City late Wednesday to reject the plans.

That appears to derail, for now, efforts to locate the two-story fueling station and convenience store on the northwest corner of Sugar House Park, where a long-vacated Sizzler restaurant now stands at the busy intersection of 2100 South and 1300 East.

But there’s also a chance the dispute could end up in court.

Planning commission members voted 9-1 to reject a conditional use permit sought by the Iowa-based chain, against protests from its attorney, who argued the move violated city code and state law.

Salt Lake City lawyer Chris Hogle said the firm had received volumes of technical information with a 78-page city staff report recommending the proposal be rejected — two weeks before Wednesday’s hearing. He urged the panel to delay its vote.

“We need more time,” Hogle told the commission, “to adequately respond.”

The lawyer confirmed early Thursday that Kum & Go intends to appeal the panel’s decision, saying the company “was disappointed.”

Instead of determining whether the company can lessen anticipated harms from the gas station, he said, “they asked us, ‘Can you eliminate any possible potential impact?’ and that’s just too high of a standard. That’s just contrary to the law.”

The Sugar House Community Council’s vice chair Judi Short, meanwhile, said Thursday the community “was very pleased with the decision.”

Sources familiar with the issue have confirmed the city sought unsuccessfully to buy the property while Kum & Go’s application was still pending. It’s unclear what effect Wednesday’s vote might have on that effort.

The city staff report found the station posed insurmountable risks of a gas tank leak or contaminated runoff that could damage soils and water resources in the park, Parleys Creek or farther downstream.

Hogle said the report contained errors and raised potential risks that he called “speculative,” adding that it caught the company by surprise, with little chance to counter.

“We expected to get a staff report that suggested conditions but didn’t recommend denial,” Hogle said. “And it came at us like a bolt out of the blue. So it’s only fair that we have an opportunity to fully inform you folks so you can make the proper, appropriate decision.”

Some commission members favored tabling Wednesday’s decision to a future date, though not a majority.

“If the applicant would feel better and that they’ve been treated fairly by the commission by getting more time,” said member Andra Ghent, “I don’t see the downside risk.” Commissioner Levi de Oliveira also backed the move.

But after further debate, panel member Aimee Burrows substituted a motion to instead prompt the commission’s vote to reject the proposal, with only de Oliveira opposed. And as a conditional use permit request, the application is officially denied.

Kum & Go’s plans had drawn hundreds of negative comments from neighbors and citywide residents as well as park enthusiasts, members of the community council and Amy Fowler, who represents the area on the Salt Lake City Council and has spoken out against the proposal.

(Salt Lake City Planning Division) A location map for the proposed Kum & Go convenience store and fueling station at the corner of 2100 South and 1300 East in Salt Lake City. The planning commission has rejected the plan.

Besides concerns over the station’s impacts on the heavily used regional park, the study also found the Sizzler site falls within a groundwater recharge zoning overlay that protects its role in replenishing the region’s water supplies.

A single leak or burst of surface runoff could threaten the park, Parleys Creek and the Hidden Hollow Natural Area downstream, warned city planner Diana Martinez, who noted that nearly a quarter of the state’s 3,604 underground storage tanks were not compliant with leak-prevention standards.

“Monitoring for leaks does not prevent leaks,” resident Lynn Schwartz told the commission during public testimony.

Hogle decried conclusions that the city was unable to impose conditions on how the station might be built to adequately mitigate risks from underground storage tanks, fuel vapor, surface runoff or the truck traffic the project might add to adjacent streets.

“Mitigation does not mean eliminate,” the attorney said, referring at one point to how a judge might interpret the matter. “They can’t ask you to deny this application because we can’t guarantee a perfect site.”

Hogle said the city was also going against its own central business district zoning for the property, which allows gas stations as a conditional use. City staff, he told the commission, “is asking you to nullify city code. You can’t do that.”

But Burrows said she agreed with the recommendations that Kum & Go’s application be denied in light of its specific circumstances.

“The fact that it’s a conditional use means that the city hasn’t said, ‘This is fine. This gas station can go right here in this spot,’” Burrow argued. “It says, ‘Consider this spot and consider this use.’ And the particulars of this lot and this use are problematic.”

If Kum & Go does fight the outcome, it must appeal to the city’s appeal hearing officer within 10 days. The officer’s decision can then be appealed in 3rd District Court.

Kum & Go is leasing the 0.83-acre site, which is two private parcels held by a company called Romney Farr Properties. The new 3,957-square-foot store was proposed as part of an expansion into Utah the chain announced in 2021.