Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
HERRIMAN — Lipstick on a pig.
Whip cream on a turd.
Those were just a couple of the ways residents characterized the proposed Olympia Hills development, even with some recent revisions, as they walked to the microphone, one after another, to voice their concerns and opposition.
“It should be perfectly clear that the citizens of this area are united in opposition to this proposal as outlined right now,” said Scott Watson. “The County Council, as our representatives, have a duty to vote no on this proposal as it stands right now. ... We are not against growth and development. We are simply against wildly irresponsible growth and development that will clearly hurt our quality of life.”
In the crowded auditorium behind him, red balloons floated and red ribbons adorned wrists and clothing, all asking that the proposed development be stopped.
The standing-room only public hearing at Copper Mountain Middle School came a few hours after a meeting where three mayors from the southwest corner of Salt Lake County raised their opposition to the controversial development proposal to the Salt Lake County Council.
“We are the poster children of growth, if you will, in this county,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs during the afternoon meeting at the county offices. Councilman Jared Henderson of Herriman, and Derk Timothy of Bluffdale, also spoke at the meeting, and Henderson spoke again at the public hearing Tuesday night.
After their initial idea was vetoed by former Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, developers submitted a revised proposal for the Daybreak-like community in July that would bring 6,330 units to roughly 933 acres in Herriman. With an expected completion date sometime in the next 30 years, the development plans boast contemporary housing, neighborhood parks, commercial centers and a 100-acre Utah State University agricultural center.
But the development continues to face resistance from the area’s mayors and their constituents, with increased traffic and density among their top concerns.
“The ideal vision is one that works with the general plan,” Staggs said, referring to a 2008 Salt Lake County development plan that recommended three to five housing units per acre.
The proposed development would put almost seven units per acre. Justin Swain, who made a presentation for Utah for Responsible for Growth at the earlier meeting, said the standard for suburban communities is just over three units per acre.
“What has changed since 2008? If anything we have more development,” Staggs said, adding that it has been years since the southwestern corner of the county was only “one-acre lots with horse property.”
Henderson echoed Staggs’ concerns, pushing back on the idea that Olympia Hills will be an all-encompassing, “live-work-play” neighborhood.
“There are no requirements for employment centers. Zero,” he said. According to Henderson, the lack of employment centers and public transportation out of Olympia Hills could overwhelm the area with traffic.
Zach Shaw from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office spoke briefly after the mayors, arguing that the current master development agreement would promote commercial construction, which could cut back on commuter traffic.
“There is no cap for commercial building permits,” Shaw said. “That’s an incentive to build commercial developments.”
Most of the concerns from citizens Tuesday night involved the lack of infrastructure to support this type of residential growth. From water and sewer issues to the cost of building new schools, by far the most mentioned concern was traffic.
They were concerned that there is talk of mass transit and more highways, but there is no specific plan in place — nor is there funding set aside. One woman said officials shouldn’t even consider approving more developments until the Mountain View Corridor improvements are finished.
Others echoed that sentiment on all of the areas of concern.
“Let’s get the solutions in place first, and then see what we can support,” said Nathaniel Swift, who encouraged the county to consider why cities would say no to this type of proposal.
Many reiterated that they support responsible development, and suggested waiting until a study of the southwest area of the county is complete. Salt Lake County and southwest cities have all pitched in to pay $250,000 for the 12- to 13-month study, commissioned after that last battle over the Olympia Hills proposal.
Several speakers said the traffic issues in the southwest corner of the valley impact everything in their lives, from the activities their children enjoy to the jobs they are willing to take.
“This growth scares everybody out here, including my 14-year-old daughter,” said Bruce Ingleby. “These are the people,” he said, sweeping his hand across the crowd behind him, “and we say no. We say no to this planned development. We say yes to growth. We say yes to responsible growth.”
Some speakers have lived in the area for decades, while others were recent transplants from high-density cities. They cautioned the county to avoid building before problem solving.
“We’re going for money,” said one man who moved to Utah from New York City. “We’re not thinking about people. ... Don’t just think with money. Think with your heart. ... Put the community first.”
Among the speakers were other public officials, including newly elected Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman, who said aside from tax reform the thing she hears about most is opposition to this development.
“This is the issue people bring up first,” Pierucci said. “I think everyone has been really respectful about their concerns with this.”
That concern has prompted her to open a bill file that would require the collection of impact fees for county developments that would benefit adjacent cities.
“I really hope this is something,” she said in closing, “as someone who grew up in this area, who represents this area, that you vote no.”