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South Jordan • Over the concerns of the mayor and many who attended a lengthy, contentious public meeting, the South Jordan City Council votedlate Tuesday to approve an apartment complex near the FrontRunner station on a bluff overlooking the Jordan River.
The council voted 4-1 to OK a transit-oriented development that mixed housing and businesses on 5.6 acres once slated for only commercial use. City council members also approved two four-story L shaped luxury apartment buildings.
Residents packed the council chamber and the elected officials heard public comments for more than an hour, with the majority opposing the development. Many also argued against developing the nearby Mulligans Golf and Games, although that proposal is not yet before the council. Mayor David Alvord was among those opposing the council'srezoning action.
"If we were to survey the people it would probably lose and it would lose in a landslide," Alvord said. "This is a vote that is contrary to the will of the people."
The council previously postponed the vote twice to give the public the opportunity to view a nearly $324,000 study commissioned by the city, which supports the decision to build more high-density housing in the area. The report by consulting company Forest CityEnterprisesalso suggested developing the city-owned Mulligans golf course as a mixed-use development.
Councilman Steve Barns, who supported the apartment complex development, said it is "debatable" that a survey would show that residents oppose this project. The only council member voting against itwas Christopher Rogers, who isn't opposed to the idea of adding apartments near the South Jordan FrontRunner station, but didn't like the particulars of this plan.
Councilman Mark Seethaler, who represents the district where the apartments will be built, said there is a need for both housing and commercial development and this site is the most logical place for housing.
"I took a good look around, saw a little sagebrush, I saw a pallet, partially broken, rocks, dirt, weeds. I think we have an opportunity to have something very beautiful come to our city," he said
Resident Michael Peterson believes the city should keep the parcel zoned for commercial, a sentiment reflected by others who testified against adding more apartments to the growing city.
"People in South Jordan are deeply concerned about the amount of high-density development that have been built in our city in the past several years, some on prime commercial properties," he said.
Peterson also suggested the city hold a referendum to let citizens decide these development issues.
Resident Stephen Kaufman complained that city leaders have not been open about the proposed development and feels that business interests are getting special treatment. He urged the mayor and members of the council need to be more respectful of citizens with opposing views.
"We are your bosses. It's ridiculous that this group of people is here begging you for what is already theirs," Kaufman said.
Seethaler said it would be easy just to go with public opinion, but he has looked at the project objectively and the council has access to more information than the public.
"We're in a different position to make a judgment and I think that's healthy," he said.
The council delayed a planned discussion on the financial state of Mulligans because city leaders felt a city report missed some key information. That conversation is now slated to take place during the May 6 council meeting. But many of the public commenters were there to oppose any building on the golf course.
"We're certainly glad that the current South Jordan City Council hasn't been serving in New York City," said resident Bonnie Bowen. "Otherwise we're afraid Central Park would be in jeopardy of closing in favor of more buildings and a bigger tax base."
Bowen said the Mulligans is a "South Jordan icon" which provides inexpensive, family friendly activities and also preserves green space that other cities wish they had.
"We have it and you're trying to take it away and we don't want that. It one of those things money can't buy," Bowen said.
Barnes said the city has no plans to develop the golf courseproperty and the study was only a way to inform the city of options.
"All 58,000 of us are the owners of Mulligans and for something that drives this kind of passion to have all of you out here in [Save Mulligans]T-shirts, none of us want to act unilaterally without you," Barnes said. "We want to have that dialogue. We want to involve you. We want to discuss all the options on the table."