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West Valley City Journal

With hopes for future homes, council denies rezone for biomedical facility

Feb 06, 2023 03:15PM ● By Travis Barton

The land looking north from Lake Park Boulevard. The council denied a biomedical facility with the hope for high-end homes to be built there. (West Valley City)

The West Valley City Council denied a rezone in December that would have seen almost 40 acres of land turn into a manufacturing facility off Lake Park Boulevard.

The proposal, from Wasatch Commercial Development, would have designed and prepared to build two office buildings along with the facility ideally suited for a national pharmaceutical company, Wasatch representative John Dahlstrom explained to the council. 

That company (alluded to as Nusano), he said, would create a “novel new product for the market that will significantly change the way radio isotopes are delivered to the market.” 

He said they believed this would bring more biomedical manufacturers to West Valley City and that the University of Utah Healthcare, who is planning a large hospital expansion in the city, would also have interest into the campus they’re proposing. 

“We believe this is a great opportunity for West Valley City to create high paying jobs that can come into this area, and that the impact of what we’re proposing will be of great benefit to the area,” Dahlstrom told the council. “We are very much committed that this is a world-class type of facility that will be attractive to CEOs and companies from around the world to West Valley City as its Utah home.” 

But the council felt otherwise, voting 6-1, preferring to keep the land open for housing with the city’s rapidly declining available land. 

“We don’t have much land left in our city,” Councilman Tom Huynh said. “And I think this property is for residential.”

The land in question, located at approximately 5000 West Lake Park Blvd., and the council’s history with it goes back almost eight years. 

In 2015, the City Council reviewed over 700 acres of properties and, in efforts to diversify and provide a different type of housing, decided to rezone many of the properties so that they could be targeted for their newly created residential estate zone: larger lots for bigger houses.

Today, according to Community and Economic Development Director Steve Pastorik, of those 700 acres he listed 65 acres went to the RE zone; 44 acres to the RM zone with three of those developments senior condos; 29 acres to UDOT for Mountain View Corridor drainage; 23 is set aside for a future hospital; 15.5 acres have gone to a charter school, church and city park and 4.3 acres to the recently created residential sustainability zone. 

When council asked if there’s been interest in building houses on the land, Pastorik said there’s been developer interest but never received an application for the property. 

The 2022 version of the City Council agreed with the council’s decision in 2015 and felt the desire to preserve land for that type of housing still applied. 

Mayor Karen Lang said when this whole Lake Park area was planned and presented, she said this area was “saved for lower density, we gave up a lot of density on the other pieces.” 

She highlighted the commercial to the east, elementary schools to the west and nearby Stonebridge golf course. “Larger homes, larger lots made more sense there then something like this.” 

Dahlstrom said he understood the proposed development would be different than previously envisioned, but held a different view. 

“Because of the way things have developed and because of the way the market is in this area, I think what we’re proposing will be much more valuable and much better use of the property than what’s currently in the master plan for the area,” he said. 

He noted their own traffic study done on the area and its proposed flexible design, that it’s not meant to be an industrial property and they agreed to limit the amount of dock doors in the facility to reflect that. 

The lone dissenting vote, Councilmember Don Christensen, said the property isn’t stirring much movement. 

“It isn’t being developed much more than a weed patch at this point,” he said prior to voting. “I don’t see a real pressing reason to hold onto it when there is a developer that can develop it and bring business and income into the city on the hope that someday, somebody will want to build homes there.”

Lang said Fairbourne Station took 20 years to develop, “so for me, seven years from 2015 to now isn’t enough time to see what the potential is there.”

Most of the council agreed, with Councilmember Jake Fitisemanu Jr. noting the proposal was “compelling” and he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the project, but after consulting with community members, was inclined toward residential rather than a business park. 

Developer Ken Milne, responsible for the Newton Farms subdivision in the city, told the council he felt the area was best suited for an RE zone and was surprised to hear it was being considered for an industrial project. 

“My perspective would be a residential estate (zone) sitting on a golf course? There’s no better combination,” he said. 

Councilman Lars Nordfelt felt the proposed project would be a “great addition to the city,” but he was in favor of keeping it inclined toward the RE, especially in light of Milne’s comments.