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Shelley Osterloh Reporting"We feel that it would be a win-win not only for the school but for the neighborhood."
Plans for a school and the future of a cemetery have people in a Salt Lake neighborhood drawing battle lines over a 13 acre field. Mt Olivet Cemetery needs money and wants to sell the land to Rowland Hall St. Marks School. However, before that happens, Salt Lake City must change the zoning so the school can build. Tonight the Planning commission holds a public hearing.
The field is located about 8th South and 14th East. Mt. Olivet cemetery owns the property where the East High football field is and leases it to the school district. The cemetery also owns a huge fenced in field just to the east, but wants to sell it.
The 127-year old Mt Olivet Cemetery needs money for sprinkler systems and other equipment. Managers say the cemetery has been operating at a 150-thousand dollar deficit. They say there is enough land to accommodate new graves for many years, but no money to care for them so they want to sell this field, which is used to dump extra dirt.
Bill Adams, Pres. Mount Olivet Assoc.: "The present cemetery is sufficient for 90 to 100 years under present operation, so it is surplus property."
The Rowland Hall St. Marks new McCarthey campus is just east of the field. The school wants to buy the land for a new school building and sports fields, but can only build if the zoning is changed from open space to institutional.
Bill Adams: "Make it so that two thirds of the property would possibly be green space. And we'd only use a third of the space for the building."
But some neighbors oppose the re-zoning and sale.
Robin Carbaugh: "Building on open land is not a preservation strategy."
Robin Carbaugh is a long-time activist for more open space in the city.
Robin Carbaugh: "This property has been zoned open space since 1995 when Salt Lake City adopted its open space ordinance. It's part of the comprehensive plan for open space preservation in Salt Lake City."
One other issue, the federal government deeded the land to the Mt. Olivet to be used only as a cemetery, and there is a restrictive clause that says if the property is not used for cemetery purposes it will revert to the federal government.
Managers for the cemetery say they've been led to believe that congress will allow the sale of the land to go through if Salt Lake City agrees to the zoning change. The planning commission hears from the public tonight.