The SLC Planning Commission approved the new Northpoint Small Area Plan

Salt Lake City doesn’t have many places like Northpoint anymore – a relatively rural oasis where farms mix with wetlands, warehouses and the hustle and bustle of an international airport.

Denise Payne has lived there — on the east side of 2200 West — for more than three decades. She raised her daughter on a three-bedroom ranch with horse boxes. She often walks or bikes the Legacy Parkway Trail and is active in her small, close-knit community.

Many of their neighbors on this side of the street want to preserve this generational heritage and especially their homes. But an updated version of the draft Northpoint Small Area Plan is raising concerns in the community, especially after the city’s planning commission voted this month to recommend that the city council approve it.

The plan calls for transitional zoning that would allow for easy fabrication east of 2200 West, where most homes are located. The purpose, according to the document, is to mitigate the impact on residential real estate through the development of commercial areas and industries. But many fear more warehouses could overwhelm residents, worsen pollution and eventually force them to evict.

“We’ve already got the inland port up and running, and who knows how many camps will be out there?” Payne asked. “I think the Salt Lake City government should try to help a little. You know, more warehouses, more trucks out here. It will only make it worse.”

Although Payne longs for more open space and hiking trails in the area, she and others see room for compromise. A grassroots petition aims to retain commercial zoning west of 2200 West, while allowing agricultural zoning east of the road to continue for low-density residential development.

Payne wants her neighbors to be able to sell if they wish, but the possibility of warehouses popping up between houses and semi trucks filling the street scares her.

“I don’t agree with calling the area out here a transition area because we’re not a transition area,” she said. “If you build warehouses all around us, it’s going to lower our property value, and it’s actually just going to force us to move.”

The plan was controversial, and the planning commission’s discussion was flooded with public comment. Residents who want to keep their houses are fighting back. Others expressed their support, saying it would help them sell land they no longer see themselves living on.

Several developers also support the proposal, but even they have concerns. The master plan recommends Northpoint-specific development code that would include a list of conditions that encourage manufacturing and offices and restrict distribution use. For some developers, the restrictions would limit the commercial interest of the lots.

Some also point to the width of protective buffers between new development and wildlife habitat as potential problems, arguing that such a distance could devalue the properties.

The whole row has proved divisive for residents. “It’s just a constant flow of developers wanting to come in and adopt it if we’re a community,” Payne said. “We live here. This is our life.”

Expansion of the inland port?

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A view from 2200 West overlooking a Dominion Energy facility in the Northpoint neighborhood of Salt Lake City in September 2022. Residents in the area have come under pressure to sell their homes to developers who Commercial looking to build warehouse space in one of Salt Lake City’s last remaining agricultural areas.

Amid the city’s housing crisis, the prospect of demolishing homes to make way for warehouses doesn’t sit well with Westpointe Parish Council leader Dorothy Owen. She sees the residents’ proposal as a more environmentally conscious compromise that would help preserve the area’s character while allowing for some industrial development.

“One of the weaknesses of the plan is that it takes a silo approach. It looks at Northpoint, a really small area, and talks about the need for the city to have that warehouse district without acknowledging the inland port dedicated solely to warehouse and trucking logistics.”

For Owen, this is more than a neighborhood issue. It is a warning of what to expect with the creation of the Utah Inland Port.

Local residents’ fears are not unfounded, said Victoria Petro-Eschler, District 1 councillor, who represents the area.

“You live in one of the most desirable areas for commercial developers right now,” she said. “And they’re sort of at the tipping point of some of the biggest changes happening in Salt Lake City and the state.”

When the plan reaches the council, Petro-Eschler promises to push for more restrictions. For example, she doesn’t believe that distribution centers are the best use for the country.

“We have to start pushing for jobs that actually bring you tons and that keep our economy going,” she said, “if we’re going to do massive development like this.”

The debate over the width of the buffers is symbolic of the tension between protecting ecosystems and allowing development, she said. When construction projects are imminent, it is crucial to find the best way to implement them.

“Any developer who comes here and wants to buy land has to understand this delicate nature,” she said, “and the rest of us have to understand that development is coming to this area.”

Petro-Eschler said she was “more worried about that than about the inland port”.

“In the inland port,” she noted, “we have a really strong interlocal arrangement. We have partners to enforce measures that we put in place there.”

plan highlights

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) New warehouse construction at 2200 West in the Northpoint neighborhood of Salt Lake City in September 2022. Residents in the area have come under pressure to sell their homes to developers looking to build warehouse space in one of the commercial parks the last agricultural areas of Salt Lake City.

After receiving feedback from all parties, the city modified the Northpoint plan in search of a compromise.

The city’s vision is to use the business park primarily for manufacturing purposes and limit distribution uses in campus-like settings. The intent is not to turn the area into a major logistics or distribution center, Krissy Gilmore, senior city planner, told the planning commission.

According to a city report, the area is designated for industrial operations. The nearby airport will not have a major impact on the community, but as this master plan is being finalized, the city anticipates more impact from flights in the Northpoint area.

“That’s one reason,” Gilmore explained, “the housing isn’t appropriate.”

The plan states that if the shift from the agricultural to the transition zone occurs, Gilmore said it should be done in exchange for the creation of quality jobs.

Another point of contention was the width of the buffers. The new draft provides a priority process for identifying wetlands and establishes a framework to incorporate flexibility into these regulations.

The plan shows that new business parks would need to be at least 200 feet away from wetlands. In transition zones, light industry would need to be at least 75 feet from wetlands. That’s less than the 300 feet some proponents have suggested in public comments.

Anyhow, Gilmore said a permitted commercial zone west of 2200 West will change the character of the area. “We felt that light industry was the next logical step in the land use vision.”

Alix Cabrera is a Report for America Corps member and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Your donation of our RFA grant helps her write stories like this; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking Here. The SLC Planning Commission approved the new Northpoint Small Area Plan

Justin Scacco

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