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HERRIMAN — Two days after the Salt Lake County Council approved zoning for a controversial, 8,700-unit development west of Herriman — a vote that infuriated city residents — Mayor Ben McAdams is urging county leaders to push pause.
McAdams on Thursday sent a letter to the county's municipal services district, urging the board to delay a vote set for Wednesday to approve the project's development agreement, citing "a great deal" of pushback from the community.
"Given the concerns I have heard from residents over the past two days, I respectfully request that you postpone your vote," McAdams wrote. "Postponing the vote could provide an opportunity to respond to residents' concerns by considering alternatives that may result in a plan that addresses not only the needs of residents represented by the (service district) but also the concerns expressed by residents in neighboring cities."
Meanwhile, Herriman leaders have begun negotiations to perhaps change the plan they had urged the county to block.
City leaders are also hopeful, based on recent talks with the developer, that they'll be able to shrink the project's density and negotiate with the developer to perhaps annex the roughly 930-acre property into the city.
"I think we may have the makings of a deal," Gordon Haight, Herriman's assistant city manager, told the City Council during a work session meeting Wednesday night.
The developer of the proposed Olympia development — modeled somewhat after Daybreak in South Jordan, but much denser — is Doug Young, who has previously worked with Herriman on several housing developments.
"We see this as a great opportunity to maybe get a little bit of dialogue going so we can get a better project that, I think, will help lessen the burden on our (community)," Haight said.
Wednesday night, the Herriman City Council directed Haight and his staff to engage in those negotiations, eager to reach a compromise to prevent the "excessive, ridiculous density," as Councilwoman Nicole Martin put it, that's been proposed in the unincorporated county land directly west of the city near 8500 West and 13100 South.
"If we don't insert ourselves into this conversation, we have no say at all," Martin said, calling Herriman's involvement "absolutely imperative."
Councilman Clint Smith agreed.
"I don't believe that it's in our best interests as a community to absolutely dig our heels in and not be open to negotiations," Smith said. "Because regardless of if its part of our community or not, it's going to impact us."
Young didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday. But Haight told the Deseret News in an interview he's confident the developer is "willing to work with us."
"We've worked with (Young) on a number of projects almost since the beginning of the city," Haight noted. "Quite frankly, he's doing it in goodwill. He's genuine to work with, and I think will bring out something the public will appreciate."
Young had previously eyed annexing the roughly 900 acres into the city for development, but the process became complicated when a citizen-formed group called Herriman for Responsible Growth successfully gathered enough signatures to push through a referendum on the city's general plan, forcing the plan to be subject to a public vote.
The project then stalled, and Young decided to turn to the county rather than to "risk time and energy," Haight said.
But that move sparked frustration from some council members.
Martin pointed to lengthy public engagement on previous development projects within the city limits and questioned why the developer would decide to go to the county instead.
"I think it is disheartening, momentarily, that after such a good relationship-building experience between the developer and the residents, that he then turned around and submitted an application for a level of density that he had to know would ignite the southwest," Martin said.
But, Martin said she's willing to move forward "in good faith."
"Of course, having a conversation is always better than having a standoff," she said. "So I'm very supportive of having a conversation in the hopes that this developer will see the good response that came from an open process."
It's not yet clear what kind of density or other changes Herriman might try to negotiate. Haight said it's too soon to say, but he did say city officials will start with "principal issues" and what the city's infrastructure can handle.
But what would motivate Young to build a less dense project when he's already got approval from the county? Haight said he believes Young has a "genuine interest at heart" for the wellbeing of Herriman's community.
"I think everyone wants something that will work for everybody," Haight said.
Haight noted that while the county has given the project zoning approval, it's still years away from construction, so there's time for Herriman to negotiate a role.
"I'm confident that will happen," he said.
At the same time, Martin said city leaders must "educate" Herriman residents about the "reality of growth" of the Wasatch Front and the state, and that somehow Herriman must do its part to "accommodate that."
"The reality that maybe brought some people to Herriman in terms of low density is no longer," Martin said, though she added that the Olympia development's "excessive, ridiculous density is also not realistic."
"Somewhere in between there ... is a middle ground that makes sense for Herriman," she added. "Bringing that 900 acres into the city is very important. I think we are best suited to something good with that for the county."