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South Valley Journal

Citizen group taking county councilmembers on drive-about tour of Olympia Hills area

Aug 05, 2019 02:25PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

“Our own private highway” is how some residents of unincorporated Salt Lake County view Utah State Highway 111 or “Bacchus Highway.” Those days are numbered, with projects like Olympia Hills under consideration for a burgeoning Salt Lake Valley and whole state expected to double in population by 2050. (Raman Patal/Wikimedia Commons)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

The citizen group Utah for Responsible Growth is seeking to educate members of the Salt Lake County Council about conditions surrounding the proposed Olympia Hills development in a tangible manner.

UFRG has invited members of the council for a drive-about tour of parts of Herriman, South Jordan, and unincorporated Salt Lake County—all through the lens of the proposed Olympia Hills planned community.

“There is a perspective you can only gain when you are [physically] in that particular area,” UFRG spokesman Justin Swain told the City Journals.

Of the county council members, only Councilman Steve Debry (South Jordan) lives in the Southwest Quadrant. Councilman Michael Jensen responsible for District 2, which covers a majority of the proposed area, lives in Magna.  

Only one of the nine-member council attended either of the spring 2019 open houses for the high-density Olympia Hills community. (The council’s newest member, At-Large representative Shireen Ghorbani personally attended both mid-March Olympia Hills open houses, held in Herriman and South Jordan. Both Mayor Jenny Wilson and Councilman Jensen had members of their staff attend the first night of the sessions.)

Swain, who has resided in Herriman for two years and resides in a development that would be very close to the 931-acre Olympia Hills planned community, said UFRG’s drive-abouts had a few goals.

He said UFRG wanted to show council members existing traffic conditions and infrastructure realities, the availability of Herriman’s current and varied housing types, and the current density of South Jordan’s Daybreak (as opposed to the higher density for Olympia Hills).

The drive-about tour starts at Herriman City Hall, then proceeds to Herriman Town Center, the Real Academy and to would-be Olympia Hills developer Doug Young’s Anthem development. 

The tour next drives through South Jordan’s Daybreak planned community, and finally heads to the two-laned Bacchus freeway, slated to be the “arterial” or major through road expected for the proposed high-density work-live-play community.

Swain and two of his UFRG colleagues show council members a map they have created of the proliferation of high-tech companies lining I-15 and then contrast that to the currently ultra-skinny State Route 111, or Bacchus Freeway.

Of Young’s promise to recruit tech companies and 2,000 associated high-paying jobs to Olympia Hills, Swain is skeptical. “I would love nothing more than for that to happen, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense.”

Swain insists that UFRG is “okay with” what he considers Herriman’s significant inventory of apartments, town homes, and condominiums, noting that Olympia Hills’ infrastructure pressures will impact all Herriman and west-side residents, not just home owners.

Swain expressed UFRG’s concerns that comparisons made to Daybreak may not truly inform council members who will vote on whether or not to approve the zoning density Olympia Hills is requesting.

One council member, Aimee Winder Newton, has already taken UFRG up on the offer. The night before Pioneer Day, Winder Newton journeyed from her Taylorsville home to meet up with UFRG.

Winder Newton has a son and daughter-in-law residing in a townhome in Herriman. In addition, Winder Newton had previously spent an “enlightening,” half-day with Herriman’s city manager and police chief, “driving around the area to better understand the issues.”

Winder Newton credits the tour as informing her about the dearth of both adequate transportation and robust economic development in the area.

“The thing I had never done before? Been on the west side [of Olympia Hills],” she said.

Here Newton references the Bacchus Freeway, slated to handle 50% of the Olympia Hills traffic.

“We really need to have an East/West freeway system,” she said. “When I was out that far west, I realized the deficit. I realized we missed the boat.”

Her son, even though he lives in Herriman, feels similarly. “There are too many people out there, and it takes too long to get places,” Tyler Newton said.

As a result of what she learned through her visit with UFRG, Winder Newton is now conducting her own tour of the area—which is planned to be broadcast via Facebook Live Thursday, Aug. 8 at 5:15 p.m. Interested residents, business owners, and others can check out either the real-time feed or visit it later via Winder-Newton’s Salt lake County Council page.

Winder Newton will host a rush-hour drive-about from I-15 exiting along 12600 South. She has invited members of the Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council, and expects to have in the car with her: Herriman Mayor Protempore/Councilman Jared Henderson, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, and South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey.

Winder Newton is the only member of the Salt Lake Council (other than Ghorbani, who was not a member of the council in 2018) to have not cast a vote on the initial Olympia Hills proposal. 

When asked how she would have voted, Winder Newton indicated she is “future-focused” on the current realities for the development and the greater area as a whole.