John Hollenhorst Reporting Irate Sandy residents are now trying to stop a big commercial development in the center of their town. Claiming they were promised a park, the residents worry they're in a losing battle with big-business heavyweights.
In business it doesn't get any bigger than Wal-Mart. There are now 3500 Wal-Mart's around the country, and lot's more coming, like one in Salt Lake City. Opposition is stirring around the country too, and close to home in Sandy.
It's always been expected the gravel pit would close someday. That day has nearly arrived. The question is, what follows?
Rachael Stone, Sandy: "We need to leave a legacy for our children, and not just a pavement legacy."
Rachael Stone is one of many neighbors upset about development plans, angry about Wal-Mart.
A local business heavyweight, The Boyer Company, which previously developed the Gateway Center, now proposes at the gravel pit, a Super Wal-Mart, a Lowe's big-box store and numerous small shops and homes.
Wade Williams, The Boyer Company: "Well, we're hoping that we can develop a community where people can live work and play and that this project will be a catalyst for the whole area to be revitalized."
But residents say it's Sandy's last major open space in the heart of the city. They worry it will create traffic and crime problems. And they claim the city has long promised a park at the gravel pit.
Cynthia Long, Manager, Sandy Mall: “It’s been in their general plan since 1979.”
Rachael Stone: “The value of a park is immense to those of us who have families here.”
The gravel pit has been on a list of recommended parks, but city planners say it was never promised.
Nick Duerksen, Sandy Community Development: "There's no doubt that for many years it's been discussed as a potential location. But there's never been a formal resolution that this will be a hundred acre park."
City officials say even if the development occurs, there'd still be room for a small park. But they say no decisions have been made yet.
Some see Wal-Mart as a sort of retail monster with a growing appetite, sucking blood from smaller businesses while paying its employees low wages.
Roy Ostendorf, Sandy Business Owner: "They do not add to the community or to the value of the community."
Wade Williams, The Boyer Company: "We think we'll actually help businesses in the area by bringing in an anchor tenant that can help generate additional traffic for the other retailers in the area."
Sandy City specifically forbid big-box stores at that location, following negotiations with residents 15 years ago. The Boyer Company hopes for a zoning change and goes before the Sandy Planning Commission May 20th.