How do you decide?

In the upcoming municipal elections, pharmacy residents of Sandy City will vote on referendum 1, visit this site which will be a vote to allow a zoning change to the gravel pit area of Sandy that would allow so-called “big box” retailers to build on the land.

I’m having a hard time knowing who’s who and what’s what. There has been so much mudslinging and misinformation in this campaign that I’m not sure what information is really true.

I’ll start by stating that I’m biased towards allowing a Wal-Mart on the site. I would love having a Super Wal-Mart closer to where I live. I don’t have anything against Wal-Mart in general. Just so my bias is clear!

As far as I can tell, the gravel pit area of 9400-ish South and 1100-ish East was originally zoned for a mix of residential and commercial uses. However the commercial uses were limited to things like medical offices, office complexes and the like.

Apparently the Sandy City Council approved a zoning change that would allow home garden centers, retail superstores and the like on the property. A grass roots organization opposed the zoning change, and took the case all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled that Sandy voters would have to vote to allow the zoning change.

So simply stated, a _yes_ vote in November will allow the zoning change, which would allow big-box retailers to continue plans to build on the property. A _no_ vote would prohibit the zoning change, so the only types of commercial uses of the property would include the aforementioned office parks and medical plazas.

However, the whole issue is complicated by a number of factors. I won’t list them all here, but I’ll let you look at the websites of the two major opposing parties, where you can read them for yourself. First, you have “Friends of Quarry Bend / Save Sandy” who support the proposed zoning change (and for good reason; the site was designed and is hosted by the company who plans to develop the property). Next you have “Save our Communities” the grass roots group that opposes the zoning change.

The trouble I have with the whole story is that after reading most of the information on both websites, I can’t figure out who is telling more of the truth. I don’t think either of them are being completely upfront and honest, and I’m having a hard time figuring out who is _more_ right.

However, all of that said, I think that I still support the proposed zoning change, and I’ll tell you why:

  • Every election cycle, we “hire” citizens in our community to work on the City Council. We entrust them with the responsibilities of making decisions for the good of our community. We empower them with the ability to enact zoning and other regulations, and with our vote we commit to trusting in their best judgment. The Sandy City Council believes that an amendment to the zoning regulations is in the best interest of the city and its residents. I trust that they have looked into the issues and that they understand all of the implications involved in making this decision. They have given me no reason to distrust their judgment. I believe they are looking out for what they believe to be the best interests of the city and its residents. They support the change, and I support them.
  • My parents received a letter in the mail from their representative in the state legislature Bryant Anderson, Sandy City Councilman (district 3) urging residents to vote for the zoning change.

    In his letter, he explained that the current Wal-Mart in Sandy has informed their landlord that they do not intend to renew their lease when it expires. That same letter stated that the Sandy Lowes also does not intend to renew their lease, and that the Albertsons in the Sandy Mall does not intend to renew their lease, and the Deseret Industries in the Sandy Mall has approached the Sandy City Council asking for suggestions for an alternative location. Wal-Mart and Lowes have both stated that they will not be considering other Sandy locations except for the gravel pit area.

    Mr. Anderson’s letter states, in part:

    Wal-Mart and Lowe’s are already located in Sandy with established customer bases. Both stores have sold their buildings and are moving. Unelss they move into the Gravel Pit they will move out of the city. Our City stands to lose the shopping opportunities, most of the customers to other cities and a significant part of the City’s tax base. … At 94^th^ South and 7^th^ East, Albertsons has planned, for some time, to leave when thier lease runs out next year. Jo-Ann Fabrics is moving to Draper. Gen X Clothing, Frontier Pies, and Pizza Hut have already left. Deseret Industries has asked the City for recommendations for a new location. These vacancies are taking place independently of the Gravel Pit proposal. The Boyer project will stop the deterioration, bring new life, and invigorate the area.

    If that is true, then Sandy stands to lose a lot of tax revenue when these stores close. If Sandy can keep them in the city, then the city can probably increase the revenue, giving more money for city programs and local schools. If the stores leave and aren’t allowed into the gravel pit, then how is Sandy going to make up for lost tax revenue? Do Sandy residents want to pay for the difference in their property taxes? The money has to come from somewhere!

  • Save our Communities claims that the gravel pit area is in the middle of a neighborhood, and that we shouldn’t allow a Super Wal-Mart and Lowes in the middle of a neighborhood. I think this argument is bogus. No reasonable person would stand on the ski connector road (that connects 9000 South to 9400 South at the gravel pit site) and say that they are in the middle of a neighborhood. Check out this map (click on the map to see a larger version):

    Sandy Development

    The red is the proposed development. The green is a golf course, and the light blue marks are the existing commercial developments or other non-residential areas in the vicinity. Does this look like the middle of a neighborhood to you?

  • Many of the arguments against the zoning change on the Save our Communities website talk about how ugly Wal-Mart will be and how big it is and how it will drive out other local stores. But that is part of the economic structure of our country. If Wal-Mart can competes better than other stores in the area, and they can sell things for a lower price, then that’s how it works! It isn’t the government’s job (or the job of “Save our Communities”) to block Wal-Mart simply because they don’t like the company or think it will hurt fair competition.

However, I don’t think that the Boyer Company is being totally honest in promoting the development. Specifically, I disagree with the following:

  • The Quarry Bend website’s major question is this: Will residents of Sandy pay millions to fund Central Park? A large park isn’t even part of the equation. I think that marketing, then, on that issue is disingenuous at best. How did the whole park issue come about? As far as I can tell, about a year ago, those against the Wal-Mart development started a “Park not Parking Lot” campaign, saying they wanted the space to be developed as a 100-acre park, not a Wal-Mark parking lot. However, bothy sides realize that a park is not a viable option, so for the Boyer Co to be campaigning on this issue is wrong, in my opinion.
  • Some of Quarry Bend’s advertising talks about how the Wal-Mart zoning would avoid a bunch of high-density apartments from filling up the gravel pit area. However, as far as I can tell, high density housing isn’t currently a permitted use as the area is zoned. Since the vote in November is to keep current zoning or to allow a change, a _No_ vote wouldn’t permit high-density housing on the site. So, that seems like it is a red herring.

In the end, I think that developing the gravel pit area with the proposed zoning regulations will be a good thing for Sandy residents. It will increase the city’s tax revenue, and give Sandy residents a wider variety of shopping and dining options. It will help revitalize the area where businesses are leaving anyway (Sandy Mall). And it will show our support for the elected leaders that we picked and pay to make these kinds of decisions.

That’s my take anyway, based upon what I could glean despite misinformation from both sides. But the great thing about our country is that we get to make our own decisions, and then put it to the vote. See you at the polls in November!

Note: I updated this entry on 10/28/05 with corrected information. Information that was deleted is crossed out, and information that was added is underlined.

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