Vacant lot near St. Luke’s eyed for affordable housing project | ParkRecord.com

Vacant lot near St. Luke’s eyed for affordable housing project

One-acre lot has remained unused for nearly 20 years

For more than 20 years, a roughly one-acre lot has remained vacant near St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Silver Springs neighborhood.

Rev. Charles Robinson, of St. Luke's, said church leaders, along with the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch counties, recently began exploring possible uses for the parcel, such as a site for affordable housing. However, Robinson emphasized that the idea is "very preliminary at this point."

"St. Luke's has this empty lot that has been sitting there since 1995 and it just tends to grow weeds and look ugly. We want to think about what we could do to make some constructive use of it," Robinson said. "The desire is to do something along the lines of affordable housing. I just don't know that it is possible because of zoning."

Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch counties recently submitted an application on behalf of St. Luke's to the Summit County Planning and Zoning Department requesting a special exception to allow for an increase in density at the site. The request would require the approval of the Summit County Council, who briefly discussed the idea at the council meeting last week.

Robinson emphasized that nothing would be done without the involvement of the surrounding neighborhood. He added, "We are not looking to impose anything on anyone. We are just looking to see what we could do."

"If we could develop a plan that accomplishes affordable housing on that property, a plan that both we, the county and the neighborhood all felt good about, then that would be a real win-win all the way around," Robinson said. "I know we would never get 100 percent of people supportive of everything, but we have to try."

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Cheryl Butler, who sits on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity, said the organization began exploring ways to make a greater impact on the affordable housing deficit nearly a year ago.

"We decided we wanted to move from the traditional one-house-a-year to a much greater number of homes for the community so we started looking for property to build on," Butler said. "We are evaluating the St. Luke's property and there is another one we are in evaluation on in Heber. Also, other developers who have affordable housing as part of their development agreements have contacted us so we are in the midst of all of that."

Butler said a conversation with the county's planning and zoning officials to discuss the feasibility of the site is "first and foremost," before the organization explores designs or pursues architectural studies.

"Those discussions have started with the county to see if the development code allows for increasing density and if it is an appropriate location for affordable housing," Butler said. "If approved by the council, that would be followed by traditional planning applications and sketches of the proposed buildings to present to the community. But that's way down the road."

With the parcel's proximity to Parley's Park Elementary School and access to public transportation, Butler said the site could be used to house municipal employees and teachers.

"That's one of the things that drives us to try and build more. It was very clear that the gap was growing between what was available and what was needed and we saw that gap," Butler said. "At the same time, we have been spending the last 10 or 12 years with donors, contractors and people who help us build and we have this foundation that is there that we can expand upon."

The organization, which mainly utilizes donated materials and labor, and acts as the mortgage lender, can produce affordable homes at a "much lower cost and can serve another niche in the population," Butler said.

"We really do think we can step it up and make a big difference and that's what we are hoping," she said.

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