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A 3rd District judge has upheld a decision by the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission that allows developers to build a four-story and six-story building next to the Mill Hollow neighborhood.

In his ruling, Judge Anthony Quinn turned down arguments by a group of residents that the commission's approval of the high rises, as well as a parking garage, at the Cottonwood Corporate Center proposal was illegal.

Attorney Wade Budge, who represents the neighbors, had argued at a hearing last month that city ordinances required the commission to determine the development would not have an adverse impact on the existing neighborhood and would comply with the master plan for the site. However, the commission approved the project in June without making those findings, he said.

But Quinn rejected Budge's interpretation of the law.

"Such a reading of the ordinance, however, an unreasonably high standard, since the Court can conceive of virtually no situation in which the construction of a building greater than two stories would not have some adverse impact on the surrounding residential property," the judge wrote in his decision, issued Wednesday.

He also said the case records show the city "carefully" considered evidence presented by the neighbors' group, the Mill Hollow Neighborhood Fund, in reaching its decision.

Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. said he was not surprised by the ruling.

"That was consistent with the legal counsel we had received all along," the mayor said, adding that he is sympathetic to the neighbors' concerns.

The two buildings and parking structure are the final phase of the 44-acre corporate center near Interstate 215. Under agreements that date back to the mid-1990s, developer John West — who is now with Cottonwood Partners — was to limit building heights bordering the neighborhood to two stories totaling 154,000 square feet. Parking also would be at street level.

West sold the parcel to Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah but is now buying it back. The plan calls for one four-story and one six-story office structure, which together will exceed 263,000 square feet, and a two-story parking garage running parallel to residential backyards.

Residents who live near the property — 9 acres between 2700 E. and 2800 E. Cottonwood Parkway — say they're concerned about noise, traffic and declining property values, and a group of them filed suit in September.

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

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