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Murray Journal

Murray City’s new ordinance regulates high-density projects

Jul 27, 2021 11:16AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The 49th Street Galleria property owners, Cottonwood Residential, had planned on 2100 apartments for the site but now needs to lower that due to a new, more restrictive amendment. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Murray City has lifted the temporary land-use restrictions limiting new development applications. At their July 20 meeting, the city council approved amendments modifying three types of mixed-use zoning and created two new classifications that could foster more village-like designs to new projects. 

In February, the city instituted a temporary six-month moratorium on current and future requests. The need for a moratorium arose from concerns registered by several Murray City department heads who needed more time to study mixed-use impacts to their operations.

This halted projects proposed by the property owners of The Pointe@53rd, 49th Street Galleria (AISU), RC Willey, the Sports Mall, the corner of 4800 South and State Street, and the former Mount Vernon School property.

State law prohibits Murray from extending the moratorium, which expired Aug. 1. The city reviewed its current zoning ordinances to address concerns about required parking, residential densities, commercial requirements, and design considerations such as open space.

City planners will create a “West Subdistrict” in Murray, where units would be restricted to 40 units per acre. In contrast, Murray City Center District and transit-oriented developments (TOD), would be allowed 100. For downtown Murray and TOD projects like Fireclay, the city would require parking to correspond to the number of bedrooms in residential units in each of those types of zones.

The city also created two new types of zoning: Centers Mixed-Use (CMU) and Village Mixed-Use (VMU) zones. Both the CMU and VMU zones are proposed with a base allowed residential density, which can be increased by providing affordable housing, mixed housing types, additional commercial beyond the base requirement, or additional project amenities and open space. The VMU density range is from 25 to35 units per acre. The CMU density range is from 35 to45 units per acre.

“The reason we are proposing two new different zones, VMU and CMU, is because these areas (e.g., RC Willey and the Sports Mall) are distinct,” Murray City Zoning Division Supervisor Jared Hall said.  “These areas are largely residential with a commercial node in the middle of it. That would be appropriate for village-mixed use.”

The city will require amenities in each project based upon the number of units and the overall size of the development. In the VMU and CMU zones, the addition of amenities beyond the base requirement can be tied to increases in the allowed residential density.

“[Fashion Place Mall] is a likely area in the next decade … to want to add residential properties to it; to revitalize itself. That’s the way malls are reimagining themselves all over the country. Fashion Place is an important area; we want to be able to accommodate that,” Hall said. 

In all three zones, projects of three acres or more will require Master Site Plan approval by the planning commission. Any applications for Master Site Plan approval must be accompanied by a traffic impact study, parking analysis, adequate public utilities, and facilities review as well as a Master Site Plan Agreement to be reviewed and approved by the city council. The city can also require developers to provide a public services review from police, fire, schools, and other services.

“I think that it is a good idea that the developers] are required to have the review,” City Councilor Diane Turner said. “I think that’s important because that can slip through easily.”

With these zoning changes, many projects now need to curtail their planned densities and reconsider the economic feasibility of some plans. 

Cory Brand, from the development firm Cottonwood Residential, plans to redevelop the former 49th Street Galleria and has concerns regarding the amendment changes.

“This is a huge impact for us. We’ve been on hold for six months. We had a project that was right there. It was quite a bit dense. The old mixed-use zoning was 70 units per acre. We had a project planned with 2100 units on this property. And now this has been cut considerably down from that,” Brand said.

Turner and other city councilors were concerned about the short window to review the amendment changes and that it lacked specific considerations like environmental sustainability. 

Murray City Attorney GL Christensen reminded the council that any developer could apply under the old ordinance to delay and make additional changes past the Aug. 1 deadline. Doug Hill, who represented the mayor’s office, recommended passage of the amendment, stating that future revisions could be included in the new ordinance.

The city council voted unanimously for the amendment.