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Holladay Journal

After Prop 14: Holladay City ready to move on from ‘that piece of dirt’

Nov 19, 2018 10:55AM ● By Justin Adams

Holladay residents voted down the proposed development on the site of the old Cottonwood Mall. A Utah Supreme Court decision awaits. (City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Last month Holladay residents took to the voting booth to oppose, by a 57 to 42 margin, the proposed development on the site of the old Cottonwood Mall, even as the ballot measure’s legitimacy remains in question at the Utah Supreme Court.  

The development in question, referred to as the Holladay Quarter, was slated to include residential, commercial and office space, including a controversial high-density apartment complex. 

The threat of a high-density housing project alarmed some Holladay residents, who organized an opposition campaign, gathering signatures in order to get the issue on this year’s ballot.

However, Holladay City argues that the city council’s approval of the site plans constituted an administrative action (rather than legislative) and therefore cannot be countered by a ballot initiative.

“It’s an entitled property right,” explained Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle. “It would be no different than you wanting to build a house and the city says you have to have this setback and this height and you come up with a plan that meets all those and the residents come in and say we don’t like your house. It doesn’t matter. You have a property right in our codes, and you have a right to build that house.” 

If the court does rule in favor of the city, there’s a possibility the developers, Ivory Homes and Woodbury Corp, decide to alter their plans in the face of on-the-record public disapproval.

“If I were the developer I wouldn’t want to build something when they know the majority of the people don’t want it there,” said Paul Baker of Unite for Holladay, one of the groups opposing the development.

“The ball would be in their court whether they want to go through with it or not,” said Dahle.

While many expected a Supreme Court decision to come down before the election, that did not happen. (As of press time, the court still hasn’t made a decision.)

In the meantime, proposition 14 was added to the ballot, asking residents if they supported or opposed the city council’s decision to approve the development plans.

“We’re excited about the results. It’s validating because we’ve been out talking to a lot of people. We think this sends a loud message to the city,” said Baker.

The results came as no surprise to Dahle. 

“We were not optimistic,” he said. “There was really nobody out in the community advocating for the project. It had gotten so toxic that a lot of us withdrew from the dialogue because it wasn’t healthy anymore. Meanwhile the Unite for Holladay people spent a tremendous amount of money on signs and mailers and robocalls. Hats off to them. They mobilized and did what they needed to do to get the vote they wanted.” 

“We were told from day one that we could never get enough signatures, that we could never win in court, that we would never win a popular vote,” said Baker, noting that his family essentially gave up their summer to work on the opposition campaign. 

Moving forward, both sides hope the city will be able to unite. 

“This is an opportunity for the city to unite and calm down,” said Baker. 

“I want the community to move forward together. As far as I’m concerned it’s over,” said Dahle, who noted that a lot of positive things happening in the city aren’t being recognized because of the emphasis on the mall site.

“It’s been really unfortunate to have this be the focus of what’s going on in our community. We’ve always been more than that piece of dirt,” he said.