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A newly proposed 492-unit apartment complex in Sugar House could have brought about $1.5 million in impact fees, but if the massive project is approved in the next 12 months, developer Boulder Ventures can pocket that cash.
The Salt Lake City Council recently approved 4-2 an initiative from Mayor Ralph Becker that would waive impact fees until Nov. 1, 2016.
City Hall officials said they are seeking a new system that would better coordinate collection of impact fees with expenditures on new parks and public-safety facilities. In the meantime, they said, collected impact fees are stacking up without being spent.
These fees were designed to keep service levels from sagging as population grows.
The 10-story apartment complex proposed for 2189 S. McClelland St. would be built at the site of the old Granite Furniture warehouse at the terminus of the S Line also known as the Sugar House Streetcar.
The $1.5 million figure is only an estimate because impact fees are levied at the time of project approval. The Boulder Ventures proposal is at the beginning of City Hall's process.
Amy Barry, chairwoman of the Sugar House Community Council, is disappointed the area will get more impacts from high-density housing without fees to mitigate the growth.
"The City Council made a bad decision," she said of the moratorium. "They should be collecting impact fees while simultaneously solving the problem."
About 900 apartment units have been built or are under construction in the central Sugar House area, according to Judi Short, of the community council's land use and zoning committee.
If approved, the Boulder Venture project would push that total close to 1,400.
Already, Barry said, there is tremendous pressure on roadways, and pedestrian crossings are lacking.
"Right away, we're going to be losing millions in Sugar House where there is all this impact," she said. "I'm really irked we are losing all these impact fees."
City Councilwoman Lisa Adams, who represents Sugar House, said that's the risk the city took when it imposed the moratorium. She was among the council members who voted in favor of the measure.
"We did anticipate a rush [of projects]," she said. "That only makes logical sense when suspending fees."
But, she noted, it was necessary in the short term to find a solution to City Hall's conundrum of coordinating the expenditure of impact fees with construction of new parks and public safety projects.
Adams added that Sugar House denizens may not like the 100-foot height proposed for the Boulder Ventures project. The zoning, however, allows it. She preferred the 65-foot or 75-foot height limits in the zone, but she was outvoted.
Council Chairman Luke Garrott said from renderings he has seen, the Boulder Ventures project looks "out of scale for Sugar House."
Further, he noted, more such projects will be submitted during the hiatus on impact fees.
"It was a mistake to impose a moratorium," he said. "That's $1.5 million we will be passing along to taxpayers."
Officials at Boulder Ventures, which also has been involved in some controversial projects tied to transit in Draper and West Jordan, did not respond to a request for an interview.
The developer, however, will make a presentation to the Sugar House Community Council on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Sprague Library.