This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Terry Diehl is a businessman. His job is not to recognize the importance of a city's values or vistas, but to make money.
And while that may be true of most business owners, Diehl is particularly aggressive, using relationships with politicians to get what he wants and pushing the boundaries of ethical behavior.
It is the job of the people's elected representatives to recognize Diehl for what he is and to protect their constituents' interests when Diehl pushes for approval of a development such as the one in Cottonwood Heights he calls Tavaci.
The high-density residential/commercial/retail "resort" would reshape the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, increase traffic and threaten the stability of the fragile foothills. The City Council and Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore should not approve it until all questions about its impacts on the city are adequately addressed. And maybe not even then, if the project does not fit the vision residents had for Cottonwood Heights when they voted to incorporate in 2005.
Terry Diehl is looking out for Terry Diehl. Cottonwood Heights should look out for itself.
In 2003 the Salt Lake County Council was convinced by Diehl and his backers, mainly County Councilman Randy Horiuchi, to grant three variances for an unsightly road that is steeper than normally allowed into the foothills, as well as a subdivision of high-end homes he planned to build there. But the nationwide recession changed his plan.
With former Cottonwood Heights City Councilman Bruce Jones running interference for him, Diehl proposed a zoning change that would allow him to build, not 43 homes on 1-acre lots as originally approved by the county, but 286 residential "units," including apartments, condos, hotel apartments and motel and hotel rooms. Remember, there is only one winding road to the property, which sits on a mountaintop.
Diehl, with the backing of Rep. Greg Hughes, is oddly promoting the resort as a transit-oriented development, basing that dubious definition on a tenuous long-term Utah Transit Authority plan to extend TRAX light rail into the area by 2040. Diehl served on the UTA board for a decade and recently resigned after being accused of using his position on the board to have a FrontRunner rail station sited on property in which he had an interest. Hughes is UTA board chairman, and Jones was UTA legal counsel.
Diehl says he is willing to lessen the visual impact of Tavaci. Citizen groups opposed to the plan are not impressed by his offer of compromise. They believe, as do we, that Diehl is that sort of businessman who clearly bears watching.