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Developer plans mixed-density project at Cottonwood paper mill

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Developers want to turn the site of the old Cottonwood Heights Paper Mill and surrounding land into a low-density, mixed-use residential project, leaving the future of the 144-year-old Cottonwood Paper Mill up in the air.

Chris Jensen of the Sandy-based Think Architecture firm presented the new development to the Cottonwood Heights Planning Commission during a June 5 work session. The proposal detailed the 30.98-acre plan that would include more than 300 residential units – consisting of 175 apartments, 120 townhomes and 14 single-family homes.

Excluding the handful of single-family homes, the so-called Paper Mill Village would range from 10 units per acre in low-density townhomes to 35 units per acre in medium-density condo zones. The proposal also called for making about 30% of the development area — about 9.3 acres — open space, as that area consists of steep slopes just below Wasatch Boulevard.

The presentation was not a formal proposal to the Planning Commission, as the area would be redeveloped under the city’s Planned Development District (PDD) ordinance.

A PDD proposal differs from a typical rezoning proposal and carries additional requirements, including the need to hold a work session before a formal application can be submitted, according to a planning commission memo.

The proposed development would rezone the old Cottonwood Paper Mill land from Regional Commercial (CR) to PDD. Much of the remaining land in the proposal is currently zoned for single-family homes (R-1-8), and should also be rezoned to PDD. The plans also call for a handful of single-family homes south of the old paper mill and to build a walking trail along the banks of Big Cottonwood Creek.

Project details

  • Landowner – Walker Development LLC
  • Architect/developer – Think Architecture
  • Proposed development – ​​30,988 acres

Despite the proposal, the potential redevelopment still must overcome several obstacles, as at least three parcels in the proposal totaling more than four acres have not yet been acquired by the developer, according to the proposal and county parcel data.

It will also likely face enormous resistance from residents who have already campaigned to save the Cottonwood Paper Mill, which opened in 1880 and was used to process pulp before it burned and was used for other purposes over the past century .

The proposal did not outline what exactly would happen to the old Cottonwood Heights paper mill, which has fallen into disrepair over the years. During the June 5 planning commission work session, Jensen said the property is a very important piece of history in the city.

“The property owners are deeply committed to preserving the historic significance of the area as we develop plans and concepts for this development,” Jensen said.

The parcels that make up much of the development are owned by Walker Development LLC, and a business entity search lists the LLC’s address as a house in Holladay. The proposal also says: “the existing land and surrounding areas are owned by the

the same family for almost 100 years.”

Jensen told the Planning Commission that the proposed density is “significantly less” than what could be done on the site. He added that there is no intention to build apartments, and that all units would be for sale.

Mike Johnson, Cottonwood Heights community and economic development director, said city staff went into the meeting with a neutral stance, as the city’s formal review of the project would occur later in the process. He said the PDD process requires a long timeline and numerous public meetings, adding that two other similar developments required 12 to 18 months of public input before a decision was made.

“It’s a much more hands-on process that involves the city,” Johnson said during the work session on the PDD process. The proposal could not be voted on during the June 5 work session.

According to the proposal, several neighborhood meetings and plan commission work sessions will take place in the coming months before a final proposal can be submitted. The final proposal could go before city staff in September.

Email Jacob Scholl

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