Fort Union plan gets approval
Walkability and sidewalks is one of the most frequent and important concerns for the master plan, for residents and planners alike. (Brian Berndt/ Cottonwood Heights City)
Gallery: Fort Union plan gets approval [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
One of the first steps for re-vamping a major corridor in Cottonwood Heights has been completed. On March 28, the Fort Union Area Master Plan was approved and adopted to the city’s general plan. The master plan “is intended to provide guidance for future site development” and was passed under Ordinance 268. By passing the ordinance, the master plan was adopted and added into the city’s general plan as an area plan.
Currently, the plan functions as an overview of what Cottonwood Heights hopes to accomplish on Fort Union. It provides background information about previous work done on the boulevard, spanning back to 2013. Additionally, the plan addresses the existing conditions of the boulevard, goals and objectives, implantation strategies and a proposed corridor plan. The proposed plan includes aspects of streetscape, district breakdowns, transportation, land use, neighborhoods, open space, public safety, organization and zoning.
Before the ordinance was passed, Mayor Kelyvn Cullimore discussed his concerns with the community and economic development director, Brian Berndt. His concerns stemmed from many resident questions, where he found the he didn’t “always have the best answers. I didn’t have a good understanding of some of the specifics, but it could just be the general concepts of the plan.”
“I understand the need for vision and a plan, but I also recognize there are a lot of unanswered questions that will have to be part of the process,” Cullimore said.
One of the consistent concerns throughout developing the master plan has been the condition of the sidewalks and walkability.
“We have designed the sidewalks to give us flexibility. Also, the buildings will be brought up 10 or 15 feet off the sidewalk, so that gives us flexibility,” Berndt said.
Cullimore asked Berndt to address issues involving traffic management along the boulevard. Many different aspects of traffic management needed to be considered, especially with the expected population growth and correlated traffic increase anticipated within the next 20 years. Some of the concerns involved are right of ways, access management and public transit.
“One of the main goals is to get traffic managed. There is a multiplicity of different things that are going to happen with this,” Berndt said.
City Engineer Brad Gilson addressed concerns of access management.
“We are going to find access points and study them so we can figure out where it’s easier to get in and out of places,” Gilson said.
Berndt said they tried to work within the existing right of way, but the direction from the council was to have no right of way.
“That was our goal, but we can expand the right of way if we choose to do that,” Berndt said.
Public transit has been one of the most discussed issues when considering future traffic along the corridor. Many organizations, like Cottonwood Heights and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), along with many residents have discussed possible solutions. These discussions can become quickly heated.
“We did look at UTA’s suggestion of a BRT (bus rapid transit). It would just be part of the traffic if it was not a BRT,” Berndt said.
Cullimore said the BRT was the most logical option in his opinion since he didn’t envision a TRAX line coming up Fort Union.
As for funding opportunities, Berndt said they don’t anticipate having a lot of public funds right up front.
“We are looking for other monies and how to do capital improvements over years. Private investment will probably be how it gets started,” Berndt said.
Councilman Tee Tyler said there are three components to how the projects will be funded. He then asked what percentage of the funds would be for private investments, grant money and the city budget.
Berndt said Cottonwood Heights is a place where developers want to be.
“If we can present the ride-off opportunity, they are happy to come in,” Berndt said. “It’s the first time we have done something of this magnitude. It all has to start with this type of plan.”
Cullimore said he understood the need for a vision and plan but he also recognized there are a lot of unanswered questions that will need to be a part of the process.
“It’s important for the public to understand that we won’t go out tomorrow to change things with millions of dollars,” Cullimore said. “This is not a prescriptive plan. It does not say what we are going to do, but says we are going to move forward and figure out how things will work together as we move forward. A future council may amend it and change it.”
Looking forward, one of the key first goals is to have “access management studies and have that as part of the next implementation step. They are only conceptions in the plan, it’s not real specific. It will be a work in progress,” Berndt said.
The staff also plans on discussing the plan with businesses.
“We will start approaching the businesses geographically to see if there is interest in doing a business improvement district,” Berndt said.
Other additional steps moving forward include identifying opportunities for urban open space and community service facilities, implantation of the trails and bike plan, looking for possible park and ride zones or parking for canyon traffic, carrying out additional studies along the corridor, and municipal code revisions for zoning, land use and development standards.
The 124-page Fort Union Main Street Corridor Area Plan is available to the public on the city website. Additional information about the studies, plans for the future, working groups, park and rides and public input for Fort Union Boulevard can be found on the website as well: cottonwoodheights.utah.gov.