Still, the wetlands are a vital part of the hemispheric flyway—the most traveled migratory bird route in the northern America—where 5 million birds live, feed, breed and rest. Some 250 species of birds use the shorelines of the Great Salt Lake, according to Friends of Great Salt Lake.
“We go to great lengths to preserve our foothills, but the ecological loss of this land is probably more impactful than developing the entire foothills and slopes visible on the Wasatch mountains,” Simonsen says.
The argument in favor of development is that it’s inevitable—a kind of mini- Manifest Destiny.
“The Northwest Quadrant is an example of an area that is already attached to an existing core with favorable characteristics and a dramatic lack of housing and services, suggesting potential ‘pentup demand,’ ” the 2008 report states. Of course, much of that pent-up demand is coming from “significant landholdings controlled by a limited number of entities with similar goals,” that report states. In other words, the LDS Church.
And as Christensen says, if Salt Lake City doesn’t grow in the northwest, developments will continue to sprout outside of the city.
The master plan certainly seems keen on the possibilities. “For many master plans, implementation is decades away. For the Northwest Quadrant, however, development of the new mixed-use community could begin within the next several years. One of the first steps will be the rezoning of properties from holding zones to the appropriate zoning category.”
Can the city prevent development in the area? It would be difficult to, say, deny water or sewer connections, the 2008 report says, because the quadrant is “contiguous” to the city.
No doubt it’s difficult, too, because of the “significant” landowners.
The City Council should be considering adoption of the master plan—in the works since 2006—in the next few months. A council working group including Christensen, Simonsen and Stan Penfold has been discussing the issues in closed sessions. Check the City Council Website for updated information at www.SLCGov.com/Council.