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HERRIMAN — A controversial high-density community proposed in southwest Salt Lake County that went down amid public backlash last summer has re-emerged with a new design.
Developers of what would still be called Olympia Hills intend to take comments on their plans in two public meetings this week before seeking approval from the county. Former Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams vetoed the project last June after the County Council approved a zone change for the 930-acre development on unincorporated land west of Herriman.
Mayors from surrounding cities of Copperton, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan opposed the plans, citing concerns about density, roads, water and sewer systems and open space. Angry residents railed against the project and urged McAdams, now a U.S. congressman, to nix it.
The proposal also prompted some leaders in the area to explore how to "divorce" their cities from the county, leading to a bill that the Utah House voted down last week.
"We really never talked to people initially about what Olympia is," said developer Doug Young. "We came in for our rezone on the property so we could establish the approvals for the zoning. We never really rolled out what Olympia is until now."
Open houses on the revised Olympia Hills plan are set for Wednesday at Bastian Elementary School in Herriman and Thursday at Golden Fields Elementary in South Jordan, both starting at 6 p.m. Horrocks Engineering, Ensign Engineering, Utah State University and others will be on hand to talk about the project.
Olympia Hills is designed to cater to Utah's burgeoning high-tech industry by creating a community were people live, work, shop and play, Young said.
"We want to create the buzz of bringing companies in from all over the world," Young said.
Initially proposed for nine housing units per acre, developers have reduced that to just under seven. Instead of 8,800 housing units, it would now be around 6,500, including single-family homes, apartments and condominiums. The community would include small parks that tie into larger existing parks, he said.
"This is not a subdivision. It's not a continuation of what’s been done," Young said, adding that subdivisions force people to drive to work. "This is a new template. This is a new page of life. I think it’s the wave of the future."
Olympia Hills residents, he said, could ride their bikes to the office and also connect into the county's trail system.
Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs scoffs at the notion of Olympia Hills as a live-work-play community.
"I think it's incredibly naive to think everybody will live, work and play in the same place," he said. "You can't just be an island. He's basically saying this is going to be an island, and that's false."
Staggs said he still has questions about density, wants to see a traffic study and wonders who's going to pay the millions for water and sewer systems. He said he's disappointed the developers haven't reached out to the southwest valley mayors since revising the project.
"I haven't seen any discussion about what kind of infrastructure would go along with that. That's really the most important thing to us," he said.
Cities in the southwest valley have commissioned a "visioning" study for the area to which Salt Lake County has contributed $100,000, Staggs said. He said it doesn't make any sense for the county to advance the project before the study is done.
Young said "we all love studies" but 90 percent of the land in Salt Lake County is already used up, leaving only about 10 percent left for development.
I think it's incredibly naive to think everybody will live, work and play in the same place. You can't just be an island. He's basically saying this is going to be an island, and that's false.
–Riverton Mayor Trent Stagg
"We can’t plan the future the same way we have in the past because that kind of thinking got us into the trouble we're in today," he said. "We are part of the solution to the problem that already exists."
Young acknowledged that the development would create traffic, but the goal is to keep people from having to drive across town for work as the valley continues to grow.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a statement that the county had encouraged the developers to include public feedback in the planning process.
"We applaud their efforts to do that and encourage residents to engage and share their thoughts on this proposed new community," said Wilson, who supported the project last summer, calling it "unique and visionary."
In addition to housing and business, the proposed community would have other features.
Donated land would be set aside for Utah State University and Jordan School District to foster science, technology, engineering and math or STEM education, Young said. There is also a site for a new Kauri Sue Hamilton School for children with special needs, he said.
Developers are also working with a children's hospital — Young declined to say which one — to build a facility in the community focusing on children's mental health, he said, noting the high rate of youth suicide.