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The Riverton City Council this week reversed its earlier denial of a request to locate a plasma-donation center near a residential area.
The council, acting on the advice of its attorney, approved the site plan for the proposed BioLife Plasma Services clinic at 13503 S. Hamilton Road (3600 West). The approval will settle a lawsuit filed by BioLife's developer against Riverton.
Councilman Paul Wayman represents District 3, where neighbors complained that such a facility does not belong so close to a residential neighborhood because it would lead to increased traffic, crime and lowered property values. He said he could not comment on the settlement nor the sentiments of neighbors.
Jody Burnett, an outside counsel representing the city, said Riverton officials didn't have much wiggle room in the legal dispute.
"When you're making an administrative decision, it's just a question whether the application complies with the rules in place, and that's too late in the game to try to revisit the fundamental policy decision about allowing commercial zoning adjacent to that residential neighborhood," Burnett said in an interview Friday.
The site proposed for the 17,000-square foot facility already is zoned commercial and city staffers had recommended that the council approve the application. When the council voted 3-1 on July 15 to reject the proposal, Councilman Brent Johnson said the choice was between "legal suicide or political suicide," according to the South Valley Journal.
The lawsuit, filed one week later, attacked the denial as "erroneous, arbitrary, capricious [and] illegal" and one that was prompted by "fear of public clamor."
Residents previously had spoken against the project and an online petition against it had collected dozens of signatures. (As of Friday, the petition had been shut down.)
In exchange for council approval, which included more than a dozen conditions agreed to by developers, the lawsuit will be dismissed.
But the agreement still needs the approval of 3rd District Judge Barry Lawrence in a Sept. 8 hearing.
"We're ready to go," Bruce Baird, attorney for BioLife's developers, said of the project. "My clients just want to operate their business, that's all."
Baird said the hearing was scheduled more than two weeks out from the council vote to give residents a chance to weigh into the legal dispute.
"They may. We don't expect them to, but they may complain about it and then we'll have an argument about that," said Baird. "They would have to file a motion for leave to intervene and at the moment they haven't done so."
Burnett said the city has notified and provided copies of the settlement to Aaron Tarin, an attorney and resident who has represented some of the homeowners, to afford residents the opportunity to intervene.
"It would be up to them," he said.
Tarin did not return a message Friday seeking comment.