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South Salt Lake • A dispute over closed streets hit the sidewalks of a neighborhood here Saturday.
"It's one business that's benefiting from this. The residents aren't benefiting from this," said Jeanette Potter, a resident who organized a "Save Our Streets" march of about two dozen neighbors.
At issue is the South Salt Lake City Council's decision last December to close parts of Burton and Truman avenues, just north of Interstate 80, at State Street. The move allows Salt Lake Valley Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram to consolidate land it owns on State Street.
Residents argue the closures are an inconvenience, forcing them to drive out of their way to get in and out of the neighborhood. They also fear a financial hit.
"It's going to damage the value of my properties," said Darrel L. Roberts, a real-estate broker and retired contractor who owns apartment buildings on 200 East, just behind the dealership's main building. Roberts said his renters "like the access to the freeway."
Residents also contend the way the City Council made its decision violates Utah law, and they are going to court to try to get it reversed. A hearing is set for Monday at 1:30 p.m. before 3rd District Judge Paul G. Maughan.
"I think we have a pretty good case," said Craig Cook, the attorney representing Potter and seven other residents bringing the case against the city.
Bruce Baird, attorney for the dealership, said Saturday it was "inappropriate" to comment on a pending legal issue. He added, "we believe the City Council's decision correctly followed the law and will be sustained."
Baird was at the dealership Saturday, with doughnuts and a cooler of bottled water for the protesters. A few accepted, though Potter admonished her supporters: "Don't eat those they're from the dealership."
The marchers stayed on the sidewalks, at one point crossing to the south side of Burton Avenue because the dealership had parked a line of pickup trucks on the sidewalk lining the north side. Salt Lake Valley has begun expansion work, placing plastic traffic barriers to block the streets. Signs on State Street tout a "pre-construction expansion sale."
Cook argues the City Council improperly based the closure decision on a 2008 petition from the dealership then Hinckley Dodge rather than on the dealership's 2014 request. That's important, Cook said, because in 2009 the Utah Legislature rewrote municipal codes, tightening the criteria cities must follow to close streets. Now, Cook said, a city cannot close a street if even a single resident can show the closure would cause harm.
Residents filled a City Council meeting on Dec. 3 to voice their objections, and again on Dec. 10 when City Attorney Lyn Creswell told the council that the 2008 decision stood. When Councilman Kevin Rapp, one of two to vote against the closure, reminded residents at the Dec. 10 meeting that the next election cycle was approaching, Councilman Mike Rutter responded, "Get off it, you jerk."
Four of the seven City Council seats are up for election this year, and three races have enough candidates that they appear on Tuesday's primary ballot. Only one of the four incumbents who voted for the closures is running for re-election, Irvin Jones. Councilmen Ryan Gold and Roy Turner had filed for re-election, but dropped out.