Salt Lake City rules on challenge to controversial housing project in the Avenues

Neighbors opposed Ivory Homes’ plans to build 21 dwellings on open land at 675 N. F Street.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The open site in Salt Lake City of a proposed subdivision called Capitol Park Cottages in the Avenues, at 675 N. F Street.

Salt Lake City has rejected an appeal from residents of the Avenues over January’s approval of a controversial housing project on F Street.

In a ruling issued Friday as part of a city appeals process, hearing officer Mary J. Woodhead found the city’s planning commission correctly applied the law when it approved Ivory Homes’ planned development petition and a preliminary plat to build 21 home lots on open land at 675 N. F Street.

A coalition of neighbors had challenged that approval for what’s being called Capitol Park Cottages, claiming commission members misapplied city code in their decision and were “arbitrary and capricious” on issues of adequate parking, reduced setbacks, housing density, open space, add-on dwellings and other aspects of the residential subdivision.

(Ivory Development, via Salt Lake City) A rendering of private driveways and parking areas within Capitol Park Cottages, a 21-unit housing project proposed at 675 F Street in Salt Lake City's Avenues neighborhood.

But Woodhead found their appeal hinged largely on policy disagreements with city code and did not highlight actual legal errors by the commission or instances where it acted “without substantial evidence.”

“There may be very good reasons to believe the commission made the wrong choice,” Woodhead wrote in her 8-page ruling, “however, that is not the purview of this proceeding.”

Reaction from Ivory, neighbors

The F Street project, she wrote, also met city rules to qualify as a planned development, contrary to neighbors’ claims. That status wasn’t invalidated, said Woodhead, by Ivory’s plans to include options for adding accessory dwellings to homes in the subdivision.

“In no case,” Woodhead wrote, “did the planning commission approve an element of the design that was contrary to city code in a manner inconsistent with the planned development guidelines.”

In a short statement, a spokesperson for Ivory Homes said Friday’s ruling upholding the planning commission’s stance will lead to “21 more units to be built to ease the housing shortage.”

(Ivory Homes, via Salt Lake City) A site map of Capitol Park Cottages, a 21-unit housing project proposed along F Street in Salt Lake City's Avenues neighborhood.

Peter Wright, an organizer with a grassroots neighborhood group called Save Our Avenues Zoning, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An attorney working on the city’s behalf argued in support of the planning commission’s decisions during an April 18 hearing before Woodhead.

Woodhead also noted in her ruling that the commission, which voted 7-1 in favor of Ivory’s requests in January, had “been presented with voluminous public comment and analysis by the planning staff, the developers and legal counsel for the neighborhood.”

Dispute over density, impacts

Hundreds of Avenues residents have opposed the density and perceived impacts of the F Street project, first proposed in 2021. After winning a major rezone of the land in late 2022, Ivory Homes has pursued construction of 21 single-family and twin homes on the 3.2-acre site, each with an optional accessory dwelling.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ivory Homes has been cleared to build a 21-home subdivision at 675 N. F Street in the Avenues.

Residents and community council leaders have argued that even after many redesigns, plans for seven detached single-family homes, 14 twin homes and up to 21 accessory dwellings were still too dense and conflicted with the character and scale of surrounding neighborhoods.

They’ve have also highlighted concerns over a lack of parking, narrow road access and loss of open space and wildlife habitat from developing the land, as well as what they see as flaws in the engineering of construction on the site’s sloping hillside.

Officials with Ivory, its consultants, city planners and other proponents say the new subdivision is well-designed within existing zoning constraints and furthers the city’s goals for expanding home types and boosting permitted housing densities in some neighborhoods.