The economic strength of Cottonwood Heights today is a product of planning and decisions that took place many years ago. In the coming decades, the area will continue to transform.
Proper planning plays a key role in preparing for those future changes.
“We’re going to have different needs as a city in the next 20 years than we did in the last 20,” Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. said.
According to the city’s economic development team, the time to plan for that eventuality is now.
On Wednesday, Jan. 21, Economic Development Director Brian Berndt will present a planned development district ordinance to the planning commission for review. The PDD does not change existing zoning, but is being presented as an option for more specialized zoning to assist in the development of key areas of the city.
The proposed code is a three-tiered system of decreasing development intensity, applicable to the gravel pit near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon and along parts of the Fort Union corridor.
“The thought is, in anticipation of things that are likely to occur on the corridor in this area, we want to have things ready and in place. This code is one of the big steps to do that,” Berndt said.
Also in January, the Zion’s Bank Public Finance Group will present the results of its in-depth study of the Fort Union corridor to the city council.
In the coming year, the city will partner with the Wasatch Front Regional Council on a study of Wasatch Blvd. to determine, in part, the impact increased development may have on that stretch of roadway.
“People may question our motivations and say, ‘We’re fine, why do we need to grow the city?’ But we won’t be [fine] forever. We need to grow our tax base,” Senior Planner Glen Goins said.
City leaders believe the proposed PDD and the commissioned studies are key elements in preparing to accommodate that growth.
The focus on the future of the gravel pit and the Fort Union corridor is not a new concept, Goins said, but a fulfillment of goals that were written into the city’s general plan upon incorporation 10 years ago.
The plan envisions that, at more than 150 acres, the gravel pit site could someday become a campus or resort-type development designed to cater to city residents and visitors alike. Retail, lodging, entertainment and transit centers are all considered possibilities for the area if the land owner chooses to sell or develop the property at the conclusion of excavation activities.
“The planning staff realizes that at some point we’re going to have a change of use, and they want to be prepared for that,” said Dough Shelby, owner of the gravel pit property. “We don’t know when that change will be, it could be some ways out in the future, but we want to be prepared for it.”
Shelby said he supports the city’s preemptive efforts to plan for transportation, infrastructure and zoning before any final decisions are made.
“This is the last bastion of big, open ground,” Goins said. “It’s right at the access of the canyon. We have major skiing here; it’s a winter and summer destination. This site becomes a regionally significant area.”
With roughly 80 percent of the city already developed, these two corridors become essential components in planning for the future.
As the expected growth occurs, Berndt said the city’s goal is to assist in those efforts without negatively affecting the surrounding neighborhoods or current character of the city.
“To me, community character and quality of life are the utmost priorities of any population,” he said.