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South Salt Lake • A planning commission took a big step toward approving lots for 76 single-family homes on the old Granite High property Thursday night.

Despite objections from community members who want the entire 27 acres of the former campus to be plotted, the South Salt Lake Planning Commission voted unanimously to give preliminary approval for Garbett Homes to build on the 16 southernmost acres of the property.

The company's Jacob Ballstaedt said that after it closes with property owner Granite School District this month, the school district would have six months to tear down the buildings that comprised the school until it closed in 2009.

Some residents and alumni, along with the Utah Arts Alliance, had hoped to preserve some or all of the school buildings.

Left up in the air was what will happen to the 11 acres on the north side of the property. Community members are concerned that a big-box commercial store might be built there.

"For us, Wal-Mart is not off the table," said Ballstaedt. "We don't decide. Anything other than single-family homes is up to the council. That is one of many options for us in a continuing resolution. The opposition to Wal-Mart is not universal. We need to take time to find a solution. We will move forward with what we have."

Commercial development on the remaining 11 acres would require a zoning change, according to Commission Chairman Jeremy Carter, with the input of new residents in the subdivision considered.

Merili Carter, who leads an alumni group that wants to save the buildings, said the city was rushing its decision. She presented a petition to save the buildings, which one plan says could be used for an arts complex.

Aaron Metcalf, of Centerville, said he worked for a large contractor that does historical renovations and that the buildings could be saved in a cost-effective manner.

Commissioner Rachael Lauritzen, who made the motion to approve the residential plat plan, said she saw no grounds to delay the project. Her motion did include a requirement that the city — not a homeowners association — manage a proposed two-thirds-acre open space on 500 East.

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