River Habitat by Google Images
This morning, Tuesday, November 1, 2011, the Utah
Supreme Court held oral arguments in the an appeal against the Salt Lake City
(SLC) Regional Soccer Complex. This unique case will decide the validity and
legality of the Prop 5 Bond that was placed before voters in 2003 to pay for
the soccer complex. If the bond is invalidated by the Utah Supreme Court, funding for a sports complex will be jeopardized and taxpayers given a chance to consider if they actually want the thing.
This lawsuit is a grassroots appeal of the suit brought by the SLC against its residents and property owners for the boondoggle soccer complex project. This is a landmark case, as citizens fight against an entrenched, belligerent city government that seeks to destroy one of the last remaining important natural open spaces along the Jordan River (approximately 200 acres that is along a major migratory bird flyway, which should be preserved for posterity and enjoyment of nature, nature education, and of course nature itself).
Background: In 2003, SLC proposed a $15.3 million bond to pay for a $22.8 million soccer tournament facility. At that time, the City promised voters a facility with 32 soccer play fields and 8 baseball diamonds, on a 212-acre site along the Jordan River. The current soccer complex plans now call for just 16 soccer fields and zero baseball diamonds. The total build-out cost for the soccer complex has mushroomed to nearly $50 million. SLC residents are getting less than half the project promised in 2003, at over twice the price.
In 2003, the City also informed voters the project would be built on 212 acres along the Jordan River, but never told voters the multi-million dollar public facility would be located squarely in the floodplain of the Jordan River and Great Salt Lake, or that the site had previously flooded over 6 times since the late 1800s, and most recently was under 3 feet of water for nearly two years in 1986-1987. In 2011, the property had standing water across most of the 160 acres up until early June, and that was despite aggressive draining and pumping efforts by the City for over two months.
In addition, the proposed site was identified in several plans, including he City's own master plan, as the site for a nature education center and urban wildlife park. Despite these prior community plans, the City under Mayor Rocky Anderson conspired with State Parks to take this publicly owned property through closed door negotiations and develop the floodplain into the soccer complex. The complex will require filling over 160 acres with an average of over 4 feet of fill material, which equates to several million cubic yards of fill. This will permanently alter the flooding pattern of the Jordan River and place other properties at risk to flooding in the future. The City has already eliminated a protective dike along the north edge of the property that protected west-side neighborhoods from potential flooding.
The City has violated numerous local, state and federal laws in developing and constructing the soccer complex. Our grassroots group is currently engaged in 8 legal actions with the City over construction of the soccer complex. To date, the City has refused to provide all of the public records regarding this project. Records that have been received by court order reveal that the City has been in negotiations for several years with REAL Salt Lake to allow the professional soccer team to build a team training center and elite soccer academy in conjunction with the soccer complex. The City Council even allocated $1.5 million to purchase adjacent lands for the RSL soccer academy.
The City is currently constructing the soccer complex and filling the floodplain, even though they claim that construction cannot move forward unless the bond is validated and bond proceeds released. The City is spending millions from somewhere to pay for construction, and taking an enormous risk if the bond is invalidated by the court.
Many viable alternatives exist for constructing the soccer complex, including better use of existing fields. The City has refused to consider any viable alternatives identified and proposed by our grassroots group.