At a Wednesday community meeting on a proposed Yalecrest community historic district, former Governor Mike Leavitt argued that getting the state legislature involved in stopping monster homes was better than the proposed historic preservation plan.---
The monster homes issue is a volatile one in Yalecrest, where some residents see a proposed historic preservation plan as the only way to hold back small single-family dwellings being taken over by the beastly homes. The issue came to a boil Wednesday night over property rights when a number of residents took the podium to speak for and against the plan. Among many speaking against the plan for being too restrictive was former governor and longtime Yalecrest resident Michael Leavitt.
“He pointed directly to [Salt Lake Councilman] JT Martin and a few people from the city planning office and said that [the Historic Preservation Plan] was too restrictive an ordinance to solve such a simple problem,” says Tracy Harty, a Yalecrest resident and assistant to the Yalecrest Community Council who was present at the meeting. “If they would look to the Legislature, they wouldn’t have to go to the extreme of the plan,” she says. “He said the Legislature was the way to go.” As of the time of this post, Leavitt could not be reached for comment.
Leavitt’s comments were greeted with applause, while Councilman Martin concluded the lengthy meeting by making the argument, however, that it wasn’t the state’s business to get involved in such a hyper-local issue. A day later, Martin is still astounded by the exchange. “I was very shocked that he would make the suggestion of taking something so local, so grass roots, and make the suggestion that somehow it could be legislated,” Martin says.
The sentiment is echoed by Harty, who also considered the idea impractical. “We all know how hard it is for the Legislature to get anything done,” Harty says. “Why would they get involved in a property rights discussion with a little Salt Lake community?”
Beyond being impractical, however, Martin says the former governor’s comments and tone were threatening. “I took it that he said we were incompetent. I took it as a very real threat,” Martin says. “Which is really quite shocking from a [former] leader who has complained about oversight from outside government [and who] would make the suggestion that there should be oversight from state government on a very local issue.”
The historic preservation plan is still in the early phases of the approval process. Recommendations and comment from the community council will be taken under consideration by the Historic Landmark Commission sometime in late June.
Perhaps more than anything, Martin is upset about the very premature nature of Leavitt’s criticism of the city’s handling of the issue. “We’re only halfway done with the first step of what is at least a four-step process,” he says.