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A former Salt Lake City councilman and lifelong west-sider will represent the capital on a state board overseeing construction of a new prison.
Gov. Gary Herbert has named Carlton Christensen to the Prison Development Commission. He joins other members who are the same state lawmakers who unanimously picked Salt Lake City as the prison site over Eagle Mountain, Grantsville and Fairfield.
"I'm a believer that you can't go in as an obstructionist, but you do have the responsibility to ask the right questions," Christensen said. "You can work with folks you might not 100 percent agree with."
Like the city's current elected leaders, Christensen opposed moving the prison to the city's long undeveloped northwest quadrant, land between Salt Lake City International Airport and the Great Salt Lake.
He said since the decision has been made, winning approval of the Legislature and Herbert earlier this month, it's time to "make lemonade out of the circumstance."
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and the City Council have threatened an environmental lawsuit as part of an ongoing fight against relocating the prison from Draper.
While those deliberations continue, Becker said it's good that Christensen will represent the city, calling him "a bright, insightful person."
"I really couldn't think of anybody better to represent Salt Lake City," Becker said.
Christensen grew up and still lives in the Rose Park neighborhood and for 16 years he represented the west side on the City Council, including the potential prison property. In that capacity, he spent more than a decade planning a residential neighborhood for that land, a plan that eventually stalled.
He wants the state to build the prison on the far west side of the property, closer to the Great Salt Lake because it will bring utilities, such as water and electricity, across now barren land that could one day hold industrial buildings and distribution centers.
"The important thing for Salt Lake City is to make sure the development that happens around it is complementary," he said, adding that location would keep the prison farther from neighborhoods.
Herbert's spokesman Jon Cox said the governor picked Christensen because of his City Council and planning experience.
"He is recognized as a bridge builder and peacemaker by those who know him well," Cox said.
Christensen, a Republican, now works for Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams as the county's regional-development director.
The state is continuing to test the available land before buying a specific site. Then will come the design phase before construction begins. While these decisions are in the hands of state employees, the Prison Development Commission, will oversee the project, which is expected to last at least three years. The remaining commission members all sat on the Prison Relocation Commission, including co-chairmen Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, and Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton.