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South Salt Lake Journal

Letter to the Editor: Don't let car dealership expand

Jan 24, 2023 11:03AM ● By Travis Barton

Dear Editor,

My name is Talia Touboul Walker, I am a resident and home owner in South Salt Lake. An appalling petition is set to be heard by the South Salt Lake City Council this Wednesday January 25th, after the petition was denied by the South Salt Lake Planning Commission on January 19th. The issue is one I believe most residents of South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City should be aware of given that it may dictate whether or not corporation could saturate the housing market by purchasing single family homes, evicting tenants, and filing for a rezoning of land based on “Vacant Usage”. 

Mark Miller Subaru, located at 3535 State Street, recently petition South Salt Lake to rezone four lots—three of which are located on Winslow Ave. The request is to rezone Single/Multi Family to a Commercial Corridor, which would grant Subaru a Condition Use to expand its dealership.

In additions to my comments below, I also have several documents, including a letter between Mark Miller and myself, the tax reports for the properties on Winslow, staff planning reports from the commission meeting, and a link to the South Salt Lake General Plan. Please note that the Commission Planning Meeting on January 19th was recorded, and although the website is not updated, the entire meeting should be available to the public upon request. It should also interest you that the planning commission paid my husband and I a visit today, and our conversation was recorded.

Mark Miller has been slowing purchasing homes on Winslow Avenue. The homes located on parcels 130 East, 140 East, 148 East Winslow Avenue are now all owned by Mark Miller. 

The staff report in favor of the rezoning only cited two reasons for its decision during the planning commission. One, the change in zone would make the current illegal use of the home legal; and two, the homes were vacant and therefore changing the zone would make the land use no longer useless/vacant.

When you consider that the homes are only vacant because Mark Miller purchased, refused to lease or rent them, and even went so far as to recently evict tenants, none of these reasons make this a valid rezoning of land. The report cites two Strategic Goals from the South Salt Lake General Plan, and in my opinion, takes them out of context—but the staff report also failed to name the countless other reasons why this would be in direct conflict and violation of the General Plan.

Land Use & Neighborhoods Goal 

Strategy #1: Accommodate a diversity of housing types, costs, and density to encourage a diverse population

Strategy #5: Enhance livability of existing and planned residential neighborhoods

Housing Goals

Strategy #4: Encourage the preservation of existing housing!

Strategy #5: Ensure residents have access safely by foot, bike or transit

Strategy #6: Promote neighborhood Pride!

Economic Development

Strategy #1: Maintain and enhance neighborhood health, vitality and integrity

As an attorney, when bold statements are made, I take them with a grain of salt until evidence of the statements serve as proof. But we only received notice of Subaru’s intent via a General Notice, one week before the City Commission Planning meeting that was held on January 19th. We aren’t exactly offered discovery time here given that the Planning Commission Staff told us today, in person, that they fully intend on speaking at the City Council meeting in favor of the petition.  Discovery is not exactly an option. 

Although I understand the desire to keep Mark Miller in the South Salt Lake community, I have a hard time believing that without the three lots (potentially four lots)—Mark Miller would leave South Salt Lake. During the Planning Commission meeting on January 19th, a Mark Miller spokesperson cited this as a “need” or the dealership will have to go elsewhere.  As a corporation who’s been slowing buying single family homes—this doesn’t sound like a “need” exists, given there are at least three vacant commercial lots around suitable for parking cars as an alternative to single family homes. 

Instead, I believe this is a means to expand land ownership, take advantage of residents who do not know better—and come off to the public as a philanthropic community member. 

One Commission Member’s statement stuck with me as she debated the petitions during the January 19th meeting, saying something along the lines of “But wouldn’t the land be better off if it were being used” – to which I answer absolutely. But had it not been for Subaru purchasing the land, those homes might very well be owned by people willing to live in them. It should be used by people like me and my husband, who want to build a home and start a family—not by a corporation who believe they can manipulate the system. And to answer her statement; it is only vacant because Subaru decided to make it vacant. If this petition is approved the city is essentially going against everything the General Plan was created for and the preservation of single family homes; encouraging corporations to buy single family homes to then change the zoning; and making South Salt Lake residents hopeless.

Aside from the poor arguments in favor of the petition, we have a general concern related to health (both physical and mental) and this dealership surrounding our home. When my husband and I purchased our home in June 2021—Mark Miller utilized car alarms to find its cars every 5 minutes—a use that is actually illegal in South Salt Lake. To this day, I still yell over my fence and make phone calls to Subaru to tell them to stop using the alarms. They also utilize stadium lights, which pollute the night and take away from the reason we live in Utah—the peace and quiet. Lastly, how much will my home value depreciate, when all that will surround us is a car lot? 

I understand that Subaru is well respected in this community, and I understand that I signed up to live next to a dealership. I did not however, sign up for a dealership to begin to buy land around me. I signed up for this neighborhood in hopes that we can make it better. Single family homes are not commercial land for a reason, nor should they be manipulated into being changed for no reason. I did not sign up for Subaru to take over and make my neighborhood unlivable. They are deliberately inhibiting our neighborhood from growing with residents who want to buy a single-family home—and like us, make it better. 

I believe absolutely nothing that they say without any proof, and to be honest, if they decided to leave—good for the residents. We would welcome a dealership who cares about its neighbors, who doesn’t stagger the housing market, who utilizes a car park map and a dealership who doesn’t leave lights on well passed the closing of the offices. But I don’t believe Mark Miller will be going anywhere, even without the additional parking space. 

Kind Regards,

Talia Touboul Walker