"If you allow this, you will destroy the neighborhood," Craig Kitterman said. "This is the wrong place."
The nonprofit club operated by Sandy City Councilwoman Linda Martinez Saville, who is the executive director now offers after-school programs for up to 120 elementary, middle and high school kids a day in the basement of the city Parks and Recreation Department, 440 E. 8680 South. Plans call for the new facility, about 1,000 feet from the current site, to serve up to 200 youths. City and club officials have said renovating the current location to meet seismic-safety standards would cost more than constructing a new building.
The club, which has been at its current location since 1995, bought the one-acre lot from the city last year for $400,000. The site was declared surplus property by the city and most recently was home to a senior center.
The club wanted to operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week to accommodate community activities, such as Junior Jazz games. However, the commission voted tolimit nighttime operation to 7 p.m.
Neighbors who opposed the move said the proposed building was too big, the operation would cause traffic and parking problems, and a "business" would be out of place in the area. They also alleged residents were not informed about the land sale and development plans until well into the process.
Sandy officials have said the city mailed and published all legally required notices and followed all legal requirements in selling the land and amending the zoning to allow a community center.
The original plan called for a 15,272-square-foot building, most of it one-story high but one part rising to 34 feet to accommodate a gymnasium. Based on neighbors' concerns, the project has been reduced to 12,918 square feet and 30 feet at its highest. The parking has been increased by seven stalls to 36 total.
At Thursday's meeting, neighborhood resident Melanie Pendrey said allowing the club to operate at the site would open the door to commercial uses in the area, such as a dance studio or bowling alley.
And another resident, Janet Broadbent, who stressed that no one was against what the Sandy Club does, said the nonprofit will have to operate for long hours and rent out space for other activities to maintain the large building.
"Why are the rest of us being punished for 120 children?" Broadbent asked. "We don't need this building. The kids don't need this building."
But Debbie Zuver said the club is trying to create a safe building and called the project "an absolutely great idea,"
Clark Stringham, who serves on the club's board of directors, said the controversy reminds him of the concerns raised years ago by Salt Lake City residents about a Ronald McDonald House being built on South Temple. A quarter of a century later, the situation has changed, he said.
"Some of those naysayer neighbors are our biggest supporters now," Stringham said. The Sandy Club is raising money for the project through fundraisers, donations and grants. Under a purchase agreement, the nonprofit is making payments for the land of approximately $20,000 a year to the city, which is holding the note. At the same time, Sandy is increasing its yearly grant to the club by $20,000, to $125,000, to cover the payments.
Mayor Tom Dolan says the club reaches children who do not participate in Sandy parks and recreation programs and that the city is "receiving more than we give."
"These are our most underprivileged children," he said of the club participants, "and we're trying to give them a lift up."
About the Sandy Club
The nonprofit, officially named The Sandy Club, a Safe Place for Boys and Girls, has been operating since 1995. The club is not part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America organization but operates under similar principles.
The Sandy Club's stated mission is to provide educational and recreational opportunities to help children and teenagers develop self-confidence, social skills, respect for others and positive leadership qualities without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or familial status.