David Lillywhite received preliminary approval to rezone his property to build an 8-unit townhouse style apartment complex. The Smithfield Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend rezoning the land on 400 West from General Commercial (GC) to Residential Multiple (RM). The change was not without a history of controversy.
“We bought that property about seven years ago,” David Lillywhite told the commission Wednesday night. “I was trying to find something good to do with it that is profitable and beneficial for the people.”
“I looked at building storage units,” he added. “But I don’t like storing people’s junk.”
Lillywhite recently spent $4500 on a preliminary design for a 20-unit extended stay motel. A motel is an acceptable use — in city code — for his property under General Commercial. When he approached the commission in the May 20 meeting for a conditional use permit, a group of citizens expressed opposition to the plan. The commission voted 2-5 against the permit.
After hearing the opposition to the motel, Lillywhite decided to reduce the units to only 8 to make it more appealing to the public.
The new plan is for eight townhouse style apartments. Each unit would be 1250 square feet with a two-car garage. There would be additional guest parking on the south end of property. The entire property will be fully developed with curb and gutter along the north edge from the railroad, around the corner and south to Connie Crowshaw’s building. It will also be fully landscaped.
During the public hearing over the property there were several people who still opposed Lillywhite’s plan. Sharon Woodruff Nickel — a long-time Salt Lake City resident — owns a rental home just west of the property. She felt it was inappropriate for rental apartments in the neighborhood of single homes. Especially with “the problems that apartments bring.”
Connie Crowshaw — who owns the granary just south of the property and who wanted to buy the property from Lillywhite — said it was his right to develop his land. She suggested that he build an ice cream shop or or some other commercial structure that people from the park might enjoy.
Matt Downs argued that he’d worked very hard to buy the home he wants — just south of Crowshaw’s building — and that the apartments would lower his property value.
Not everyone who spoke to the commission was opposed to the development.
Perry Hopson — who lives a few blocks from the property — thought that apartments are a realistic use of the land. “I think storage sheds would be a worse eye sore,” he told the commission. “Eight units would be less of an eye sore.”
James Elwood — a 54-year resident of Smithfield — commented on several developments built by Lillywhite. He thought they were good and made a real difference. This design would change an eyesore into something worthwhile. “[The property] hasn’t been nice for 54 years,” he said. “The issues of safety, sidewalks, and parking have been addressed. It will bring increased revenue for the city.”
Return to R112
After closing the hearing Rik Vernon, commission chairman, opened the discussion by pointing out that people need a place to live. He owns apartments in Logan and asked the question, where do your sons and daughters live when they want to get out on their own? He also asked the question of the audience, how many of them had lived in apartments at one time? Most reluctantly raised their hands.
Commissioner Jamie Anderson pointed out that there are many uses allowed for the property under General Commercial. If people found apartments objectionable, Lillywhite is completely within his rights to build far more objectionable commercial structures on the land. That Lillywhite is willing to alter his plans to better accomodate the public is worth considering.
Commissioner Roger Douglas said he simply preferred the apartment complex to the extended stay motel.
Commissioner David Price stated that he would rather have single family homes on the property and adamantly suggested they rezone it back to R112. Vernon pointed out that it is General Commercial and can’t just be rezoned to whatever they want. Lillywhite can keep it GC and force the city to let him build the motel.
Jon Wells, the city building official, also pointed out that land zoned GC is more valuable than R112. If the city forcibly rezoned the land to R112 to prevent Lillywhite from constructing something he has a right to build, it would be “taking” away the value of the land. Lillywhite could sue the city and would have a strong case.
Commissioner Bryant McKay said he would go along with David Price and if they were going to rezone it, why not rezone it to R112.
Vernon said the debate could go on for a while. The question is whether they will pass it or not and asked for a motion. Anderson moved to rezone the property to Residential Multiple so Lillywhite could build the complex. Douglas seconded the motion.
Richard Jewkes, Rik Vernon, Jamie Anderson and Roger Douglas voted yes.
David Price and Bryant McKay voted no.
The motion passed. A recommendation to rezone the property to RM will be passed to the city council for consideration. It is now up to the city council to decide whether or not to ratify the zoning.