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MIDVALE — The Midvale City Council agreed Tuesday to push forward an amended high-density housing plan that would add 1,000 more housing units to a swath of land known as “Jordan Bluffs,” where 2,500 units were already proposed.
The motion passed the council with a 3-2 vote following a contentious discussion, where some residents voiced concerns about how the plan would lead to an overcrowded population, increased crime, and unsafe streets.
However, as some on the council noted, the development has been in the works for 15 years and it was time to move forward.
Jordan Bluffs is located in the area of 7800 South, Holden Street and Main Street on the city’s west side. Most of the section of land is where Sharon Steel used to smelt copper and has been vacant for a quarter of a century. In 2004, the Midvale’s Redevelopment Agency adopted the land for the Jordan Bluff Project, according to the city’s website.
Plans have gone back and forth for the area since. The second phase of the redevelopment didn't come until last October. Prior to Tuesday, the plan was to have 2,500 housing units in the area among areas of residential, retail, commercial and public space.
The exact motion that passed in the meeting Tuesday increased the residential density in the Jordan Bluffs zone and created a review process and development standards for residential, commercial and mixed-use development in sub-areas within the swath of land.
There was a lively debate about adding 1,000 new housing units prior to the changes passing. For residents in the area that showed up to the meeting, the idea of increased traffic was their main concern.
Cara Cole, a longtime Midvale resident, told the council the roads can’t handle additional cars, especially because they already get clogged when traffic is backed up on I-15 and motorists use alternate routes.
“If you go down here to Sharon Steel and put in all that housing, (2,500) units is one thing. But you add on another 1,000 units, do you realize how much influx that’s going to be on our little streets? Our little streets can’t take that. We don’t have room,” she said.
Others, like resident Natasha Hill, were concerned about the lack of single-family homes in the city, which has driven up the cost of homes. She told the council she’d prefer for the city to create single-family homes within the space because it might attract people more likely to stay around the community for decades to come more than apartments would.
“My generation — we’re millennials — we still want houses even if they have tiny yards,” she said. “I imagine most of you live in single-family homes and wouldn’t want to live in an apartment your entire life. When we’re building all these apartments, it’s a temporary fix. People do not want to stay in apartments their entire lives.”
Midvale Councilman Dustin Gettel said the idea to expand housing density in the area was the largest concern residents had in his district when he went door-to-door campaigning for city council. It’s why he wasn’t shocked by many of the comments made during the meeting and why he voted against the measure.
That's not to say Gettel opposed the project entirely.
“It’s not like we’re saying ‘no’ you can’t build anything here. You already have 2,500 (units),” he said during the meeting. “Just to reiterate, we may or may not approve 1,000 additional (units). That doesn’t mean there’s going to be nothing there.”
While Midvale Councilman Quinn Sperry acknowledged the density concerns, he was among the councilors who supported the measure. He said a planned boulevard for the area should help alleviate some of the traffic concerns.
Sperry supported the measure because he said it would benefit attracting people to Midvale’s Main Street.
“I think it’s going to drastically change the image of our city, and I think it’d be in a positive way,” he argued in favor of it before the council voted.
Adding 1,000 housing units also helps a problem the city has been asked to address. Prior to the meeting, Matt Dahl, director of Midvale's Redevelopment Agency, informed the council about ways redistricting was affected during Utah’s 2019 legislative session.
That included measures by the Legislature to help keep housing affordable, such as SB34.
Dahl called the bills a response to statewide “political will to try and stop new development.” With the problems coming at local levels, the state Legislature took up the issue.
Midvale and other municipalities were tasked with coming up with a moderate-income housing plan involving increased density, then those cities and towns may be eligible to receive state funds.
Dahl said Midvale’s plan should be coming “soon” and is due by July to comply with the legislature.
Many population projections have Utah growing significantly over the next few decades and Midvale is no exception.
“We are projected to take a small sliver of the growth throughout the state, but that small sliver translates to about 730 people a year through 2040,” Dahl said.
By adding more housing options, the city could survive the population increase without housing becoming unaffordable, he added. That’s easier said than done.
“That’s going to be a challenging thing for us to look at, so that’s adding to sort of how we’re working through these things carefully,” Dahl said.