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Washington Square Dispatch

Highlights from the Dec. 7 meeting of the Salt Lake City Council

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The Salt Lake City and County building, on Washington Square, recently reopened to public visitors after closing due to COVID-19 precautions. - WIKICOMMONS
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  • The Salt Lake City and County building, on Washington Square, recently reopened to public visitors after closing due to COVID-19 precautions.

Highlights from the Dec. 7 meeting of the Salt Lake City Council

Public Comment
The Salt Lake City Council convened in person, with remote access available, following months off all-virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The switch to a hybrid format follows the recent reopening to the public of the City and County Building. Mayor Erin Mendenhall shared her concerns about the threat of COVID-19 transmissions that are still spreading across Utah.

Although 67% of Utah residents are vaccinated, she said, the emerging variant Omicron has the state worried at rising case numbers.

“We are happy to be returning to our hybrid pilot meetings, which we plan to continue with for as long as it is safe,” said Council Chairwoman Amy Fowler, speaking with her mouth and nose covered. “I am certainly glad to be back on site with my council colleagues, council staff, Madam Mayor and the public attending in person.”

Winter Beds
Council members discussed several potential grant opportunities, including one that received special attention due to the lowering temperatures of the winter months. A proposed Point Hotel project would expand the Airport Inn on North Temple to contain roughly 100 housing units. These units would then be available for adults and veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Homeless shelters in Utah are nearing capacity, and councilmembers noted that the current occupancy rate is 97%. A proposed budget amendment would fund an emergency winter shelter, potentially supplemented by grants.

In an earlier city council meeting held in November, members approved 250 temporary beds at the Ramada Inn—at 1659 W. North Temple—for those seeking shelter. This came with some reluctance and frustration from the council members.

“We’re once again forced into a corner to make a decision on a statewide issue that hasn’t been addressed on time by anyone including us,” Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros said. “I find it insulting that the providers will shy away from insisting that other cities do their fair part and take on some of their responsibility.”

Water Limits
The Council heard public comment on a proposal to adopt a lower limit of water usage for commercial and industrial facilities. Lowering the limit is intended to compel conservation in response to record drought plaguing Utah and other Western states.

“The limit affects multiple zones and multiple land-use city-wide,” said senior policy analyst Nick Tarbet.

A member of the public encouraged the Council to adopt additional water regulations, pointing to the impending demand on municipal water from development of the Utah Inland Port.

“I’m against it,” another member of the public stated. “I’m concerned, first of all, that the ordinance may discourage the refinery from upgrading their equipment to reduce pollution that typically requires more water.” They added that gas prices could increase as a result of higher refinery costs.

Councilman Dan Dugan expressed support for lowering the limit even further than the proposal, to 200,000 gallons of water.

Ken Sanders at The Leonardo
The City Council also adopted a resolution to allow Ken Sanders—of Ken Sanders Rare Books—to sublet spaces in The Leonardo museum, located in Downtown’s Library Square. Sanders intends to relocate his book store to the museum as a result of his prior location on 200 East being slated for demolition and redevelopment.

City ordinance requires businesses subletting the property to “fulfill a public purpose” and have a direct relation to The Leonardo, as per the mission plan of the museum. Councilmembers said they hope the relocation of Ken Sanders Rare Books will enhance and preserve the heart of downtown’s vitality.

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