SYRACUSE -- A group of neighbors who live close to a proposed development on the city's north side say the city is moving too fast on a project that some local officials suggest can bring as many as 1,200 jobs to the region.
"Just because the first suitor has come, doesn't mean it's a fit," Ray Zaugg said of plans by Ninigret to build an industrial park with some multifamily housing on land just east of Syracuse High School.
Zaugg and a group of about 11 neighbors gathered at a home just south of the proposed development area recently to meet with the media and to raise concerns they think have not been addressed.
Even though specific site plans have not been released, many of the neighbors are frustrated by the assumption the project is a done deal. They suggest the idea of an industrial park with apartment buildings in the region is simply not appropriate. They cite such concerns as traffic, the issue of another industrial area so close to Freeport Center and the issue of crime associated with multifamily housing, among others.
"I love this city and don't mind we've grown to 25,000 people. We need appropriate growth. I love single-family dwellings, but I don't love apartment buildings," businessman Terry Palmer said of the project.
What has added to the growing frustration of the group is the idea that some city officials are forcing the project down their throats, under the guise of economic growth. A number of them expressed open frustration with Mayor Jamie Nagle, who has said in public settings the project and its concerns will be addressed.
City officials hosted an economic panel forum on the project earlier this month, where one official estimated the project could cycle as much as $51 million into the economy of the region; but neighbors say everything doesn't add up that nicely, or that easily.
Several of the neighbors claim they know development must come to the proposed project location, but they just don't want it to be a business park with apartments.
Zaugg said with the proposed expansion of State Road 193 through Clearfield, Syracuse and West Point, the projected growth area will attract more interest. Zaugg said he and others have nothing against Ninigret; they just don't think the project outline is the right fit for the neighborhood.
Former Councilwoman Kaye Volk does not live near the proposed site, but she suggests the project will have a negative impact on the whole city, not just the region near the high school. She said city leaders need to listen to the silent majority on the issue, before they rush a development.
"If you are going to err, err on the side of caution," Volk said.
Shawn Kearl said city leaders need to look at the outline for their general plan, in looking at any project. Beyond just the projected uses for the property in question, he said, the plan stresses some quality of life issues, which have been ignored thus far.
Kearl said the city's idea of vetting the project has hardly been open. He said simply putting up two or three building options and asking residents to pick one is not the kind of review the project needs.
Nagle insists the city would not be holding open houses to explain the project, or public hearings on rezoning issues for the project, if it were a done deal. She insists the project is appropriate for the area.
"I do believe this project is right for the city and believe we are lucky to have the developer that has bought the property building in Syracuse. I am committed to working with the developer to ensure there are proper buffer zones and design standards to ensure the prosperity of the surrounding neighborhoods and the development itself," Nagle said.
Ninigret has a track record of developing properties in Utah for the past 30 years, including Ninigret Technology Park in Salt Lake City.
The development company gave city officials a tour of their Salt Lake City development in January this year.