The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted two landmark ordinances and purchased acreage as it closed out 2012 – a dynamic year for the body led by outgoing Chairman Soren Simonsen.
The council adopted an ordinance that makes demolishing buildings much more difficult and demands that property owners keep structures from becoming rundown.
It also adopted an ordinance to create a street light fee that is expected to raise enough funding to bring the city's ailing system up to standard.
And the council approved the purchase of about 16 acres at 2600 North and 2200 West for $690,000 to be used as a park.
As is the custom in Salt Lake City, council chairmen do not serve more than one year consecutively. The body will choose a new chairman in January.
The new street light fee may anger some residents. But it wasn't the only council action to grab attention this year.
Among the highlights: In May, it funded $6.9 million for a so-called "green way" to parallel the planned Sugar House streetcar line.
In June, the council raised curbside parking to $2 an hour, in an effort to balance the city's $205 million budget for fiscal year 2012-13.
In October, it passed an ordinance allowing neighborhood pubs, and it also revamped its process for creating local historic preservation districts.
Throughout the year, council members took an active role in guiding the $110 million Broadway-style theater, championed by Mayor Ralph Becker, that is planned for Main Street.
"It's been a productive year," Simonsen said in an interview.
Although they are less likely to gain headlines than parking fees or neighborhood pubs, Simonsen said he's most proud of the work the council did this year creating policy statements that will guide planning into the future.
Broken down, they take into account the city's economic health, arts and culture, neighborhood quality of life, parks and open space, education, historic preservation, transportation, housing and transparency in government.
"Soren definitely put his stamp on what we're doing in planning," said Councilman Luke Garrott in an interview.
Councilman Kyle LaMalfa agreed that Simonsen led the council into a broad policy discussion even when some were reluctant to go along.
"When I took office a year ago, I didn't see the value of these policy statements," he said. "But I learned they will serve to guide city employees as they work through tangible things every day."
The seven members of the council, however, are not always of one mind, said Councilman Carlton Christensen, who has been on the council for 15 years.
"I don't know if we've coalesced. But we have made some good progress," he said. "There have been some respectful differences. And we've worked to find compromises."
A new chairman, no doubt, will bring different priorities. Garrott, LaMalfa and Christensen all say they would like the council to emphasize various issues surrounding neighborhood quality of life in the coming year.
Council action Tuesday
Streetlight fee • Salt Lake City residents beginning in January will pay $3.73 per month for street lights. Commercial, government and school buildings will pay $3.73 per 75 feet of street frontage. The fee is expected to bring in $3.6 million per year.
Demolition ordinance • Building owners must keep vacant buildings fit to live or work in. Buildings can be demolished only after the owner submits replacement plans and obtains a building permit. Owners of buildings deemed too rundown to repair must provide a post-demolition landscaping and maintenance bond.
Open-space purchase • Approved $690,000 to purchase 15.85 acres at 2600 North and 2200 West. No decision has yet been made on land use; it has been suggested that the acreage become a dog park or a disk golf course.