July 22, 2008

Kearns Business Owners Not All Hot on Renewal

By Jeremiah Stettler, The Salt Lake Tribune

Jul. 22--KEARNS -- Efforts to transform this township's deteriorating warehouse district into an iconic entryway of office complexes, high-rise condos and perhaps even a TRAX station could face a formidable opponent: property owners.

The Kearns Community Council rolled out plans Monday to bring a bustling business district to the area near 4700 South and 5600 West that is now home to dozens of acres of overgrown weeds, aging warehouses and chain-link fences.

But the private presentation, reserved for impacted landowners, elicited more grumbles than grins.

"So you are going to take all the industry in Kearns," said Randy Lujan of L&L Erection and Fabrication, "and pretty much kill it."

That's the fear of many entrepreneurs within Kearns' warehouse district, who responded explosively Monday to a redevelopment plan that someday might phase out their industrial properties and create a "Ninth and Ninth"-style commercial/residential development.

The vision also includes space for a "transitional" industrial park and higher-density housing.

Salt Lake County hasn't signed off on those plans yet. But its consultant believes an urban-renewal area -- allowing the community to reinvest a portion of any new property taxes on the 75-acre site to help pay for roads, curbs and other infrastructure -- would suit the property well.

Those dollars would serve as a financial incentive for developers who might not consider the property otherwise.

What worries existing businesses is that the county might use its condemnation powers to clear them off the township's northwest corner.

That's not the intention, Kearns officials say.

"We are not telling you that you have got to vacate your properties or close down your businesses," Charles Henderson, chairman of the township's economic-development committee, insisted. "That is absolutely not the plan here."

Yet the redevelopment rumblings aren't alarming everyone. Russ Anderson, whose uncle owns the abandoned Pipe and Tube property that has remained vacant for almost a decade, hopes the vision will prompt new development.

"No developer is going to make the investment they need in that corner," Anderson said, "unless there is a comprehensive plan for the surrounding area."

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What's next

The Kearns Community Council will present its plans in a town hall meeting Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Kearns High, 5525 S. Cougar Lane (4840 West).


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