Sunday, May 18, 2008

Developers Gone Wild

Two Utah stories focusing on the effects of developer-abandoned projects

By Curmudgeon

Today's Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting story about what happens when developers are allowed to run amok with few or no restrictions on their conduct. In Draper, developers, out of cash and with the new homes market sagging, are simply walking away from half-finished projects, leaving half built houses or foundations behind them. Which is tanking property values in the surrounding homes. Draper city government is now trying to close the barn door way too late. But still, the city seems now to be embracing the heretical idea [in Utah's legislative majority] that government regulation of developers can be a good thing and might be a necessary thing.

Here's how the story opens:

Draper doesn't want to turn into a graveyard of unfinished homes.
In effort to brace itself for fallout from a slumping housing market, the city is targeting builders who walk away from unfinished projects, leaving behind skeletons of would-have-been homes. "This does create a safety concern and an eyesore," says City Councilwoman Stephanie Davis, adding that the city could at least require landowners to fence off their unfinished-home sites.
Several Draper residents, who already live next to long-abandoned shells, would welcome such a change. Take, for example, the Satre's, who are dazzled by the sweeping view of the Salt Lake Valley from their east-bench home's back windows.
But a glance out the front door tells a different story. A massive dirt mound and abandoned concrete foundation - peppered with unsightly graffiti and rusty concrete reinforcing rods have stood abandoned for three years atop a trio of would-be home lots in a neighborhood where many houses have sold for more than $1 million.
The full story can be found here. As I read it, I couldn't help wondering this: if Mayor Godfrey and his developer cronies had gotten their way, and they'd sold Mt. Ogden Park to build a couple hundred high-end vacation villas, would we all now be looking at benches filled with half completed homes and holes in the ground?

Second, the lead article in the Salt Lake City Weekly this week is about how, in Utah, developers and utilities get to do pretty much what they damn well please, with, often, unhappy consequences for the cities involved. Good account of how SLC permitted the destruction of a historic building in Sugar House, forcing out several successful non-chain small businesses, so a mega condo and commercial block could take their place... only to see the project stall in the weakening market, leaving a raw and gaping construction site where thriving businesses in a historic building used to be.

The City Weekly article can be found here.


RudiZink said...

Thanks for the submission, Curm.

In a similar vein, we mustn't forget about the situation in our own Ogden River Project, where would-be developer Gadi Leshem seems to have all but abandoned the numerous residential properties he acquired prior to 2008.

Our readers will recall that we did a writeup on the problem on 4/26/08, springboarding off a fine Std-Ex editorial of the same date.

The situation is analogous to the circumstances in Draper and Sugarhouse. I believe, although each of these projects seems stalled in a different phase.

Curmudgeon said...

The SE did itself proud on that editorial, and it kept the video version up on its opening webpage for a week. I had to grin when I read that Mayor Godfrey said he's asked and asked and pleaded with Lesham to do something about the mess, but with no luck. That's what happens when the Mayor of a City reduces himself and his administration to docile agents of out of state developers like Mr. Lesham. [Remember, the Godfrey administration had the city acting, in secret, as a purchasing agent for Lesham, buying up options in in the Lesham City area.] Why would Lesham listen to a mayor who'd turned himself and his administration into willing supplicants and subordinates?

About all that's left for Godfrey to do is to try, on bended knee, tugging his forelock a little harder next time he comes into The Presence of Gaddi.

If Lesham City wasn't such a crime-ridden eyesore, the Mayor's predicament would almost be funny.


Little Bird said...


Are these (Lesham City) buildings the ones that are just North of the Amersports building. I was riding down the parkway the other day and almost all the homes in that area have been boarded over. I am somewhat new to the blog and perhaps these boarded houses have already been discussed/explained?

Curmudgeon said...

little bird:

Yup. That's them. They were bought up by Lesham as part of his grand planned River Project development. But they've been boarded up ever since, are visibly deteriorating, and are becoming havens for the homeless, or criminals stripping out plumbing or other valuables. They're essentially abandoned properties, and the developer should have bulldozed them long ago if he was not going to being construction on the lots anytime soon... as clearly he was not.

"Lesham City" is just my term for the area, since it does not seem to have a name of its own, and other areas of the River Project RDA zone have been cleared, etc. Seemed to fit.

danny said...

Your lead article and the posts above are golden. There's nothing I can add, other than that a minor tweak.

I will henceforth call the area of former homes and businesses that have been blighted by the Godfrey Administration: "Leshemville, Utah."

Or perhaps, Leshem Township, Ogden Utah?

Leshem Field? Leshem Flats? Leshem Row? The Leshem Skids? Lesham Barrens?

"Leshem City" makes it sound separate from Ogden. It needs to be remembered it is squarely in Ogden and yet another of example of Godfrey's hubris-fueled ineptitude with much more bad news to come.

Fly on the wall said...

I still see little work being done on the Earnshaw building just north of the wreck center. I am wondering if they are having financial problems with it. The brick layers havent made much progress and nothing else seems to be getting done on the building.

The other thing that I noticed, is the River Project area first phase hasnt gone any where, I thought that the Godfrey blow horn bunch had numerous people ready to start building over there. To date only Binghams.

I am just w little worried about all of the City taxpayer subsidised development projects.

Any input on those projects?

disgusted said...

as i recall the mayor bought the property in phase one of the river project with rda money. if things dont start to develop soon in phase one then that asset will not generate enough money to pay the bonds or loans from the city.
will godfrey ask the city to write off that loan too or will he fund the payments due on that property with the general fund money since most if not all of the rda revenue stream is already pledged to the rec center.

Caesare said...

The Ogden Valley is looking at several developments that may never get off the ground. Bison Creek is on the edge along with it's Sewer Plant that was to serve two other developments. Those two developments will have to put more septic systems if they go forward. Just what the Valley needs. Pineview is already polluted and will get worse if our commissioners keep allowing more septic systems.

disgusted said...


what youre talking about is ogden city drinking water - pineview

OgdenLover said...

I also participated in the Ogden Marathon (just the 5K though) on Saturday. The path followed the Ogden River and just as I passed Bingham Cyclery I looked to my right. All the way to Grant Avenue I saw boarded up, decrepit buildings through the trees and brush. More of Lesham Township, I assume.

Since we do get people from out of town and out of State for the Marathon, these buildings along with the boarded up ones we ran by on Grant, do nothing to enhance our "High Adventure" image.

Ogden is looking up said...

Smoke, mirrors, and lies.

fly on the wall said...

I dont know where the little lord will get more money to cover bonds, as I recall the BDO funds dedicated to infrastructure are going to pay other RDA committments at the mall site, and I dont see enough to go around.

Too bad we cant run the little shit out of town on a rail.

Curmudgeon said...


I think Ogden gets its drinking water from wells; I think Pineview water goes for secondary water and for irrigation use. If that is so, it does not diminish much the problem of a polluted Pineview Reservoir, since it is a major recreational venue as well... boating, swimming, fishing, and of course Pineview water, mostly, fills the Ogden River too --- which is used for recreational fishing, and for they kayak parks. So its becoming polluted is a problem, just not I think for Ogden's culinary water system. If I'm mistaken about Pineview and Ogden's culinary water source, I'd like to know that.

UtahTeacher said...

This post goes right along with your previous comments about Larry Myler and a proposed development in Ogden.

His huge, random, unfinished condo towers on State Street in Orem are just silly and greedy in my opinion. It is hard to describe the weirdness of these huge 5+ story buildings that literally dwarf everything for miles, sitting alongside a Pepboys, Kinkos, Nickelcade, and other little strip mall joints. Plus, everything is fenced off besides one side parking lot because of the piles of construction rubble and debris everywhere and the buildings are this bright yellow because of some sort of wrapping on the interior walls that they apparently can't afford to cover with the stucco or whatever they're using.

I'm surprised that they've talked even 5 owners into living in a permanent construction zone, and it's an ugly, commercial spot to live even if they buildings were finished. I should really email you guys a couple pictures.

Caesare said...

The city of ogden should be concerned about their water. They do get the culinary water from wells below Pineview, but guess where Powder Mountain wants to sink a large well to feed their development and two 18 hole golf courses. Does anyone understand how much water two golf courses will use in this dry climate at over 7,000 feet? The Ogden City water people have been told of this and have not responded. Who is looking out for your city water supply?

Contact the city water people for an answer!

Moroni McConkie said...

Curm: You are correct on the source of Ogden City's drinking water (artesian wells drilled circa 1915, now lying under Pineview) and of the use of water stored in Pineview. See Leonard J. Arrington and Lowell Dittmer, “Reclamation in Three Layers: The Ogden River Project, 1934-1965,” Pacific Historical Review 35 (1966).

Curmudgeon said...

Thanks for the pointer.

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