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Rezoning of Avenues ‘cottages’ gets green light despite strong neighborhood pressure

Facing strong opposition from hundreds of neighbors, Salt Lake City planners approved a rezoning of 3.2 acres of open space in the avenues to make way for new housing.

Ivory Homes, Utah’s largest homebuilder, sought to convert the land at approximately 675 North F Street from a long-standing foothills residential area, requiring minimum quarter-acre lots, into a special development zone, allowing lot sizes of less than half that duration and essentially doubling the number of houses Ivoire is allowed to build.

The change in density would allow Murray-based Ivory to adopt plans for what it calls Capitol Park Cottages, with 19 single-family homes, including five that would be custom-built. At least 14 of the homes would have built-in secondary suites, or ADUs, for a total of 38 new units on what is now green space at the north end of F Street on 13th Avenue.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ivory Homes, Utah’s largest homebuilder, won a rezoning on Wednesday of a 3.2-acre lot at 675 North F Street in the Avenues of Salt Lake City, where he wants to build 19 high-end homes, 14 of them with accessory living units, or ADUs, inside and five built as luxury custom homes. Hundreds of neighbors opposed the project.

Ivory described the project as, among other things, an experimental demonstration of using denser construction with pre-built ADUs as a way to add more housing per acre for a city with a significant affordable housing shortage. .

The homebuilder won approval for the rezoning on Wednesday night, after more than two years of debate and four iterations of the hotly contested proposal. The 9-1 vote followed several hours of public testimony largely against the idea.

The change still requires a final vote by the Salt Lake City Council.

Peter Gamvroulas, project manager for Ivory, said the existing zoning of the property’s foothills – first adopted as part of a master plan in 1987 – was outdated and explicitly limited construction to larger and more more exclusive properties inaccessible to most potential residents.

“Not the best result for such a rare property in the city,” Gamvroulas said of the land, which Ivory purchased from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And while the avenues master plan has not changed, the city’s planning and housing goals have, he said, “and they recognize that density is not something to be feared, and when it can be increased minimally and rationally, that’s a good thing.”

From “very low density” to “low density”

According to city documents, the zoning change would effectively change the site from “very low density” to “low density.” With approximately 10 units per acre, the property would be more densely built than surrounding blocks in upper avenues, but at or below densities per acre on many blocks in the neighborhood south of Seventh Avenue, judging by the city ​​maps.

Yet few of the housing projects of recent years have elicited this one’s organized opposition.

Neighbors worry about extra traffic and street safety, parking issues, loss of green space, air pollution, wildfire danger, compressed house setbacks surroundings and the idea that the project would be incompatible with the dominant character of the avenues, one of the oldest in the city. and the more affluent neighborhoods.

(Image courtesy of Ivory Homes, via Salt Lake City) An early open space design for Capitol Park Cottages, a new housing development proposed by Ivory Homes at approximately 675 North F Street in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City.

Nearly 60 residents testified on the proposal Wednesday, with only a handful in favor. Two organized community groups have also weighed in against Ivoire’s plans.

“We understand the city’s housing shortage and are prepared to accept a reasonable increase in density on this lot,” said Peter Wright of the Preserve Our Avenues Zoning Coalition, which emerged to fight rezoning.

“However, what Ivory has proposed is not reasonable,” Wright said. “It’s not even close to reasonable.

“These are big, tall, two-story homes with four or five bedrooms and three-car garages,” he complained, saying the dwellings would be “not typical” of mostly older single-story homes. and smaller ones in the neighborhood built less than half the size of what Ivory describes as “cottages.”

“Unaffordable housing”

Wright and others pointed to two community-wide polls organized by the Greater Avenues Community Council and a signature drive that drew thousands of participants, all with overwhelmingly unfavorable results for the project. Several others noted that house prices will likely exceed $1 million each and that ADUs will be rented at market rates.

“It’s not affordable housing,” said nearby resident Sara DeLong. “It looks like a for-profit corporation profiting at the expense of local residents, the safety of our children and potentially our home’s property values ​​due to increased traffic congestion.”

Gamvroulas countered that the Capitol Park Cottages project, which is still undergoing the city’s design approval process, was intended to expand housing options in an elite area of ​​the city “with good access to jobs, schools, parks and services, and generally a good location for additional families.

Avenues resident and Salt Lake City School Board member Katherine Kennedy reiterated student safety concerns at the prospect of adding cars to the steep streets of Avenues, which often lack sidewalks. Another resident, Gary Crittenden, warned of worsening wildfire dangers, pointing to a blaze that threatened the city’s Marmalade neighborhood a year ago.

“The high density of Plan d’Ivoire would both impede firefighting and put lives and property at risk,” said Crittenden, among others, who feared the increased density of homes could one day impede firefighting. emergency evacuation.

Opinion of the planning commission

Andres Paredes, the only commission member to vote against the rezoning recommendation, said he agreed with the comments about the uniqueness of the avenues and that “perhaps the density is in the wrong place”. .

“I think it negatively affects the neighborhood,” Paredes said, “so I’m still trying to figure out what’s on offer.”

Commission member Andra Ghent, who is also a professor of finance at the University of Utah and holder of the Ivory-Boyer Chair in Real Estate at the U. — a position staffed in part through philanthropic donations from Ivory — did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

After public testimony, Commissioner Brenda Scheer said many of the comments against the project “seem a little over the top” for what amounts to adding 11 more housing units than what could be built under current zoning.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a disaster, it destroys character, it’s very high risk, it endangers children, it makes pollution worse. Salt Lake Valley air or it turns a diamond into a lump of coal,” Scheer said. “The families will be very happy to have the opportunity to live in a new house in the Avenues.”

But Scheer supported other concerns raised by residents about putting denser development in a neighborhood that is not particularly walkable and lacks access to public transport, as well as concerns regarding the loss of wildlife habitat and the mechanics of building new houses on sloping ground.

Commissioner Adrienne Bell, a resident of Avenues, said she does not believe the number of housing units proposed under the special development zoning is “outrageous, nor will it create the impacts we have heard about tonight”.

“I’m a big proponent of infill,” Bell said, “and that every neighborhood in the city should find opportunities to create density and alternative housing products.”

Commissioner Aimee Burrows commended residents for their involvement, calling the opposition well-organized, thoughtful and precise. “It’s a good neighborhood,” Burrows said. “No matter how many families settle on this land, they will be lucky to have you as neighbors.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion