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SANDY — Two City Council members reversed their previous positions and voted late Tuesday night to allow the Utah Transit Authority to build a park-and-ride lot to serve a future light-rail station at 11400 South.
A change of heart, and vote
Three weeks ago, Councilmen Stephen Smith and Bryant Anderson were among the majority of council members who supported an appeal by a group of residents to overturn a decision by the Planning Commission in January that gave UTA a green light to build the park-and-ride lot.
Then last week, Smith called for the issue to be reconsidered, saying he believed additional conditions offered since the May 10 vote, combined with those recommended by the City Council and Planning Commission, adequately addressed his concerns with the project.
So the obvious question is: When is (the City Council's) final vote? Is it when UTA gets what they want?
–Joe Taylor, Sandy resident
Smith previously was one of the most vocal members of the council in his opposition to the project — calling the transit authority "too big" and saying UTA officials don't believe municipalities such as Sandy could or would challenge them.
Smith's criticism of UTA and the project has been second only to Councilman Scott Cowdell, who throughout the process has made no secret of his mistrust of UTA and his contention that the park-and-ride lot would negatively impact the health, safety and welfare of Sandy and its residents.
Smith's and Anderson's respective changes of heart allow UTA to move forward with the 222- to 248-stall parking lot west of the TRAX station now under construction at 11400 South and about 400 East.
Sandy residents not happy with new decision
The fact that the issue was brought back to the City Council for reconsideration came as a surprise to the 50-plus residents who have been fighting for the past 2½ years to keep the park-and-ride lot from being built near their homes.
"I couldn't believe it," Sandy resident LeeAnn Evans said. "It feels like it's never ending."
"So the obvious question is: When is (the City Council's) final vote? Is it when UTA gets what they want?" asked Joe Taylor, another neighbor.
Neighbors pleaded with the City Council on Tuesday night to reaffirm its May 10 decision and not allow a parking lot to be built in the otherwise residential area.
"You did the right thing (on May 10)," resident Peter Donaldson told the City Council prior to the vote. "You stood up and protected us. We ask you to please not turn your back on us now."
UTA responds to council's re-vote
UTA officials had said they likely would appeal the council's May 10 decision in court. Now, that won't be necessary.
"We're very gratified that the majority of the City Council believes we can work together to address (residents') concerns," UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said. "We're committed to meeting all of the conditions discussed in tonight's meeting."
We're very gratified that the majority of the City Council believes we can work together to address (residents') concerns.
–Gerry Carpenter, UTA spokesman
In the weeks following the May 10 vote, UTA has offered to increase security measures at the park-and-ride lot, including the installation of security cameras and a plan to work with the Sandy Police Department to address the expected increase in crime.
Last week, the UTA Board of Trustees voted to move forward with purchasing the 2-acre vacant lot immediately west of the planned park and ride. The ability to expand to address the potential for additional parking at the lot also appears to have addressed some council members' concerns.
The Planning Commission's Jan. 6 approval of a conditional-use permit for the project included a list of 29 conditions, some of which were designed to address neighbors' concerns about traffic, crime and a negative impact on property values.
The City Council reviewed and modified those conditions Tuesday night, along with those proposed by council members and UTA. In addition to landscaping requirements, those conditions included a parking management plan designed prevent parking from overflowing into city streets.
As a way to offset potential negative impacts to property values, UTA offered to covey an irrevocable 15-foot easement for the benefit of the property owners, giving residents' whose yards abut the park-and-ride additional property. The easement essentially increases the size of property owners' lots without creating an additional property tax burden.
According to UTA, the park-and-ride lot is needed to accommodate projected ridership on the Draper Transit Corridor. The 11400 South station is one of three stops on the 3.8-mile extension of the TRAX line that currently ends at 10000 South.
The cost of the entire project is estimated at $194 million. UTA officials are counting on a federal grant to cover $124 million of that cost.