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Salt Lake City council rejects rezoning amendment involving historic homes

A photo of the four homes on 200 South near Lincoln Street in Salt Lake City considered for demolition on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The four homes were constructed in the 1890s, according to historians.

(Carter Williams, KSL.com)



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to reject a proposal to rezone a section of land where five historic homes are located to build a new townhome project.

The plan called for a rezoning of five land parcels by Lincoln Street and 200 South in the Central City neighborhood.

The vote came two weeks after the council heard heavy criticism of the project from residents and one of the state's largest preservation groups. They told the council the 19 proposed units didn't fit the city's master plan and that approving the project would destroy at least four homes constructed in the 1890s.

Tuesday's vote concluded the rezoning portion of what was a two-year debate over the future of the homes. It was made with far less drama than the meetings leading up to the vote. The plan to rezone the area failed with little discussion on the matter.

Cindy Cromer, a Salt Lake City resident who opposed the rezoning plan, said she was upset that former tenants of the homes were evicted but applauded the city council after its vote.

"You did your part as decision-makers and I am deeply appreciative," she said.

Tuesday's decision doesn't mean the future of the historic homes is settled. Chiao-ih Hui, a representative for the group seeking the zoning amendments, told the city council during a public comment hearing earlier this month that the owner of the homes would likely tear down them down and rebuild five new energy-efficient homes if the rezoning attempt failed.

KSL.com reached out to Hui on Wednesday to see if the group still planned to proceed with that strategy following the council's decision but did not receive an immediate response.

A document created by the city about the project points out that the current building owners wouldn't need to get approval from the city council for renovation, redevelopment or demolition for any of the homes as long as the new homes fit the size requirements of the lot's current zoning. A spokesperson for the city council said the applicants would need to get a permit for it, which is more of a standard procedure and wouldn't go through the same public process as rezoning.

All five homes are within the Salt Lake City East Side Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, but that status only recognizes the building's history and doesn't provide protection against demolition.

Other decisions

The Lincoln Street rezoning plan was one of five rezonings the council was tasked with voting on. The council approved an ordinance to amend the zoning map at 1301 South and 1321 South State Street for a potential mixed-use building.

It also approved an ordinance to rezone a property at 2903 S. Highland Drive that could allow for future development in Sugar House, as well as an ordinance to close a small portion of an alley near 740 West and 746 West and 900 South, which would close off the property from a proposed future development location.

Meanwhile, the council deferred action on a rezoning plan for properties by 706 West and 740 West and 900 South for a future meeting. That rezoning would create the possibility of a multifamily residential housing development in the area.

The project is heavily opposed by members of the Summum religion, whose house of worship and pyramid are adjacent to the proposed rezoning location. Members of the religion spoke against the proposal during a March 2 public comment hearing and again Tuesday.

They said they have been at that location for close to 50 years and a new development would disrupt their spiritual practices, such as mediation and gardening.

"We consider the ground around our temple sacred grounds, just like the temple downtown is considered temple ground that is sacred," Su Menu, president of Summum, told the council Tuesday. "Building a 75-foot tall (structure) surrounding our property will kill off much of our land."

Dennis Faris, the vice chair of the Poplar Grove Community Council, said the developer of the project has been "communicative and collaborative" regarding the proposed project. He added that community leaders in the area have sought input from Summum and invited them to attend meetings on the proposed project.

"We have always had an open door and will continue to do so," he said. "We'd love to hear from Summum and the community sphere to hear whatever concerns they have."

The city council is expected to make a decision on the rezoning plan at a future meeting.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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