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West Valley City Journal

Council narrowly passes development along 4700 South

Nov 09, 2021 12:59PM ● By Travis Barton

Land for the future townhomes will be to the right, while to the left is a Cyprus Credit Union. (Courtesy West Valley City)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

In a tight 4-3 vote, the West Valley City Council approved a zone change near 3500 West and 4700 South that will see a 12-unit townhome development built. 

Property owners originally wanted 20 units on the 1.08 acre of land at 3540 W. 4700 South before lowering it to 14 and eventually 12 after feedback from city officials. 

Adam Maher, the designated agent for the owner, said they pursued other options such as office space, but felt a residential plan was more fitting. 

He explained prior to the vote that they went through the city’s process, which included making bigger units to incorporate basements, to make it “the best project it could be for the land, for the cost, for the area, and for what a lot of the citizens of West Valley are looking for: to not always be renters, but to be owners.” 

“We feel good about the plan we put together,” Maher said, and feels they’ve been “responsive to (city) staff every step along the way.” 

Usually during council meetings across the valley, when a higher density project comes before a city council, public comments tend to be disapproving. However during the September council meeting where the project was approved, two men spoke in favor highlighting the owner, Rogelio Franco, as an quality landlord. 

One of the men, William Bryan who currently lives in Taylorsville and works in West Valley, plans to buy one of the units of the newly approved development. He noted its affordability and his affability with Franco. 

“He likes to help, he’s here to make the city better,” Bryan told the council. 

The other man, Robert Beasley, said he currently lives in a two bedroom apartment with his wife and kids. They’re trying to build credit to buy a house, but it’s not possible for them right now with the current cost of housing. They plan to reserve a unit so their kids won’t have to change schools, he said, noting this “makes it possible for us to move up in our life.” 

“This is an opportunity in this market, the way it is, to do better for us,” Beasley said. “To give my son his own bedroom and get the space that we need…this is a small piece of land for something that could be so affordable for families like ours.” 

Franco said prior to the vote that cities are losing great people because they are being priced out, asking the council to ponder that opportunity to provide a home for those families.

But not everybody was moved. Councilmembers had issues with what ends up on the property. 

Councilmember Tom Huynh said the council must think about the effect of their decisions long-term. West of the property is a strip mall that Huynh said he would prefer the property connect with something commercial. 

Councilmember Steve Buhler pointed out that while he appreciates Franco being a “great landlord” and that they want “great landlords in the city,” the council has no say in the development’s affordability. 

“What the price of these units will be is completely out of our control, it’s not on our table at all,” he said. He also pointed out that if Franco decides to sell the property, and the zoning changes and condos are built, it’ll be controlled by the market. “It’s not going to reduce housing prices in the city.” 

Buhler, known for his stance on zone changes to require something unique, felt the same here. 

“We have a 35-square-mile city,” Buhler said. “Every inch is zoned. Owners can build as they see fit without coming to see the city council. They only need to come see the city council if they want to change the zoning. And for me, to change the zoning, it has to be something that’s special, it has to be something that’s ‘boy I’m glad you came, this looks like something we don’t have in the city, something we need, something that will be great.’ Then let’s change the zoning, let’s develop something special.” 

Councilmember Jake Fitisemanu Jr. said while he acknowledges the council’s lack of control over housing prices or landlords, giving people a place to live was more important. 

“When I talk to my neighbors, and I look at pending priorities here in the city,” he said. “I’m going to lean in favor of safe places for people to live with their families rather than storage units or commercial uses.” 

Buhler, Huynh and Councilmember Karen Lang were the dissenting votes while Fitisemanu Jr., Mayor Ron Bigelow and Councilmembers Lars Nordfelt and Don Christensen voted in favor.