HOLLADAY, Utah -- After a Utah Supreme Court ruling upholding a voter referendum on the old Cottonwood Mall development plans, city leaders and the companies that sought to build on the site are trying to figure out what happens next.
"There’s no Plan B," Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle told FOX 13 on Thursday. "There’s no developments queued up in the system."
For now, the 57-acre mall site will remain a vacant, weed covered field with the husk of a Macy's department store. The old mall was torn down more than a decade ago, the property owned by the Howard Hughes Co. But Ivory Homes and Woodbury Corp.'s plans to develop it into a mix of high-density apartments, commercial and office towers, prompted a lot of push back.
Residents angry over the development plans that included more apartments not only sued, but gathered signatures and got a voter referendum that won earlier this month. Combined with the Utah Supreme Court ruling upholding the voter referendum, it effectively killed the development project.
"This was a bad development," said Paul Baker, who organized for the referendum and sued the city.
Baker said the development had more apartments than it was zoned for, and their complaints were ignored.
"They changed the mall into an apartment complex, then boosted the apartment complex, and required us to pay taxes as Holladay citizens essentially to cover some of that build as a subsidy," he told FOX 13.
In its ruling, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that decisions made by Holladay City leaders amounted to a "legislative act," and not an administrative one. It opened it up to referendum.
Mayor Dahle worried the Court's ruling would have impacts across the Wasatch Front as community leaders grapple with an affordable housing crisis, and citizens being able to block development projects via referendum.
"Communities are going to have to have this discussion. This idea of 'Not in my back yard' is going to have to go away," he said.
Baker insisted it is not easy to get a referendum before voters. He said city leaders will have to engage more with their constituents in future developments.
"The community input was rejected or pushed away at the end of the day. We felt the only response we had was referenda," he said.
Baker said he is not opposed to apartments on the Cottonwood Mall site, but wants them to follow the original zoning.
"I’d love for them to stick with the current zoning!" he said of what could happen next with the development.
In a joint statement, Ivory Homes and Woodbury Corp. didn't seem willing to walk away quite yet.
"While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision, we understand that this was a complicated issue and difficult to reach 'sufficient consensus.' Good planning requires a partnership with property owners and cities. Utah must avoid becoming a state where zoning by referendum is commonplace," Ivory Homes CEO Clark Ivory and Woodbury Corp. Vice-President Jeff Woodbury said.
"This simply does not serve the long-term public interest and places property rights at risk. Our companies and Howard Hughes Corp. will take some time to assess our future plans with the property. We are grateful to the people of Holladay who understand the importance of redeveloping the old Cottonwood Mall site into a vibrant part of the city’s future."
Read the Utah Supreme Court's ruling here: