Creek feud boils
Council decision restricts new construction near creek banks
By Derek Jensen | The Salt Lake Tribune
Scores of east-end property owners say they've been unfairly blamed for polluting streams that meander out of the mountains.
And now, the residents who live along the water's edge are riled over a City Council decision - in a bid to eradicate erosion - to restrict new construction and other ground disturbances within 100 feet of creek banks.
The 6-to-1 vote came in mid-January despite a capacity crowd of 100-plus on hand to log laments.
One east-bench resident who moved to Salt Lake City from Vietnam told the council the new rule reminds him of a communist land grab.
Others suggested the restrictions are an "attorney's dream," predicting the effort will plunge the capital into court.
"I don't need an ordinance to convince me of the prudence of erosion control," said David Darley, who owns property along Emigration Creek.
The ordinance outlines new building limits within 100 feet, 50 feet and 25 feet, which become more restrictive closer to the waterways. In many cases, new decks, steps or sheds may be prohibited, or at least require a permit.
The regulation could affect some 2,000 property owners who live alongside Red Butte, Emigration, Parleys and City creeks.
Council Chairwoman Jill Remington Love notes the city was forced to act since a six-month moratorium was set to expire. What's more, she says, the capital had no protections on the books to safeguard the streams.
Love acknowledges some motivation derived from a developers' now-stalled plan to build a series of homes in Wasatch Hollow. But she insists the city never had any intention - as rumored - to carve out the creek corridors for a new trail system.
"We're trying to find a fair balance between property rights and property protection," Love said. "We're very sincere and very genuine that it needs to be a holistic approach. This is just one piece of it."
Still, owners say they are a scapegoat, insisting the city and its storm drains are the primary polluter. A steady string of residents complained during a recent public hearing that the zoning amendment will put a pinch on property values.
"We are severely disappointed," Red Butte-area resident Dan Evans told the council. He said the measure was approved despite any scientific evaluation.
Perhaps as a compromise, the council agreed to revisit the restrictions in six months, during which residents are invited to offer feedback. In the interim, city officials will retain a consultant for the streams and establish a subcommittee to study the so-called riparian corridor.
Even so, not everyone disagreed with the council dictate.
"This should have been part of the city's open-space master plan," resident Cindy Cromer argued. "There is a cost associated with being 20 years late."