Salt Lake City planners say the city should reject controversial plans to build a Kum & Go gas station next to popular Sugar House Park.
The gas station and convenience store proposed on the site of an abandoned Sizzler restaurant at 2111 S. 1300 East poses insurmountable risks of a gas tank leak or contaminated runoff that could damage soil and water resources at the park, Parleys Creek or further downstream. according to their newly released report.
The findings also cite concerns about increased traffic at the busy intersection of 2100 South and 1300 East and the prospect of fueling trucks rolling through nearby neighborhoods. They therefore recommend that the city’s planning commission deny a conditional use permit applied for by Iowa-based firm Kum & Go.
Their 78-page report, issued ahead of a much-anticipated permit application hearing on April 12, comes after a wave of opposition to the gas station from residents, park supporters and Sugar House Community Council members in recent months.
Judi Short, a former Salt Lake City planning commissioner who is now the council’s land use and zoning chair, called the report “thorough” and said it captured some of residents’ deep concerns.
“From what I’ve heard, everyone is against it,” said Short, noting that the city had received 653 public comments on the Kum & Go proposal, the vast majority of which opposed it. However, the results are no guarantee that the planning commission will judge the same.
“So,” Short said, “we’re still going to get a lot of people to show up for the April 12 hearing.”
The area has special protection from watersheds
The report comes after officials signaled for months that their power to heed community sentiment against the station was limited by city ordinances. Mayor Erin Mendenhall told a Sugar House town hall in December that the city had few options in its review.
However, planners have concluded that the city has a legitimate state and public purpose, the station within its mandate to defend Sugar House Park and the Hidden Hollow Natural Area, and the surface and groundwater that flows down Parleys Creek , to lock.
“The proposed gas station at this site,” they wrote, “creates negative impacts on the government’s interest in Sugar House Park and the public welfare that is intended to be provided by Parleys Creek Regional Parks and Hidden Hollow, which is downstream from Sugar House Park.” .”
Planning Director Nick Norris confirmed that research and analysis had identified “a reasonable probability” for these adverse impacts to occur – impacts that “cannot be mitigated by appropriate permitting conditions”.
The study, Norris said, also showed that the area falls within a groundwater recharge zoning that protects its critical role in cleaning up and replenishing the region’s water supply.
“With these findings,” Norris said, “city ordinance requires that conditional use be denied.”
So while the staff report doesn’t guarantee that the Planning Commission will reject Kum & Go’s application, it does appear to make that outcome much more likely.
The city sees “adverse effects” that cannot be remedied
The property in question, adjacent to a busy commercial intersection near Interstate 80, is privately owned by a company called Romney Farr Properties.
Kum & Go, headquartered in Des Moines, leases the site. The new 3,957-square-foot store is proposed as part of an expansion to Utah that the chain announced in 2021.
The lots are designated for “community business” purposes and gas stations are permitted as part of this zoning as conditional use. As part of the city’s review process, the 11-member commission is required to review the proposal’s “reasonably foreseeable adverse effects” and can only deny conditional use permits if those effects “cannot be significantly mitigated.”
Kum & Go and its Colorado-based planning consultant, Galloway & Co., have retooled the designs multiple times while working to address a variety of concerns about the placement of the two-story store with three two-sided gas pumping stations on this adjacent 0.83-acre property to the northwest corner of the park.
A spokesman for Galloway & Co. could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
City planners have concluded that the project does not meet the standards or intent set out in the Sugar House Master Plan for the park’s amenities, even after making several changes to its design to make it greener and more pedestrian-friendly.
And while Kum & Go suggests using development techniques and best management practices, the station’s proximity to storm drains and the possibility of a harmful and damaging runoff or fuel leak make it “not site-appropriate.”
The report describes the 110.5-acre regional park as a “crown jewel” for residents of Sugar House and the rest of the city. It particularly highlights the green space’s proximity to the award-winning Hidden Hollow area above Parleys Creek, both of which would be highly vulnerable to contaminated runoff, the planners warned.
According to the report, Kum & Go “has not provided any information showing that the reasonably anticipated potential for soil, water and air pollution arising from the proposed use can be materially mitigated.”
Concerns about water, pollution and traffic
The Sizzler site and park are also located in a secondary water reclamation area, which is the primary opportunity to replenish groundwater as a secondary source of drinking water, according to the report, a source that accounts for up to 10% of the city’s water supply.
Because the gas station is proposed within 350 feet of the pond at Sugar House Park, the underground storage tanks also pose a risk of soil, water and air leakage and contamination of the watershed, according to the report. Citing data from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the planners found that one in four of the state’s 3,604 underground storage tanks did not meet leak prevention standards.
“There is no monitoring system that is 100% reliable for detecting releases (petroleum leaks),” the planners wrote, “and there is no definitive way to prevent leaks.”
Norris acknowledged there were similar concerns at the Chevron gas station, located across from the Sizzler lot. “However, it is an existing service station,” he added, “and is not subject to the same level of scrutiny as a new service station, which requires conditional use.”
City planners also dismissed a traffic study prepared by consultants for Kum & Go that looked at the safety of the adjacent intersection and connecting routes from 1300 East and 2100 South, saying the analysis was conducted when no vehicles actually entered the property or left.
“Just because the roadway can physically handle the increase in traffic doesn’t mean the municipality can,” the planners wrote, noting potential impacts of the additional truck traffic on pedestrians and cyclists. Additional car travel to and from the project, they said, “is becoming an issue for public health, safety and community well-being.”
Kum & Go’s plan to direct tanker trucks exiting the gas station east onto 2100 South could disrupt residents along the road and pose safety issues for pedestrians and schoolchildren, the report said, “since this is not a typical route for big tank truck is. ”
Although the planners recommend denial of the application, their report lists 15 conditions that must be imposed on the Kum & Go station if approved.
These include monitoring sensors and other advanced technologies employed on its fuel tanks; landscaping to create a better buffer between the train station and the park; additional treatment of surface runoff and stormwater on site; and a plan to hold Kum & Go accountable for any cleanup and sanitation of the property, park, or town property downstream in the event of a leak or contamination from surface runoff.
https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/04/04/surprise-move-planners-urge-slc/ Planners are urging SLC to turn down a gas station near Sugar House Park