SALT LAKE CITY — Despite last-minute protests from mayors and residents from nearby cities, Salt Lake County on Tuesday green-lighted zoning for a massive new development near Herriman that could perhaps become the county’s newest city.
Modeled somewhat after Daybreak in South Jordan —but much bigger — the proposed Olympia development would bring more than 8,700 units made up of mostly townhomes and apartments to about 930 acres of unincorporated land west of Herriman, near 8500 West and 13100 South.
Elected officials from Herriman, Riverton, West Jordan and the metro township of Copperton urged the Salt Lake County Council to pump the brakes on the plan the day of the council’s final vote for the high-density zoning change — but they found favor with only one county councilman when it came down to the vote.
Neighboring city leaders worry Olympia will become the densest community yet in Salt Lake County, with the potential to bring more than 30,000 residents to the area based on an average of 3.5 people per dwelling unit, according to Salt Lake County planning documents.
That’s an average of more than 32 people per acre, Herriman Mayor David Watts pointed out. In comparison, South Jordan’s Daybreak has an estimated 20,000 residents living in about 4,100 acres — or about nine people per acre.
That kind of density could be "overwhelming" to nearby neighborhoods and roads, Watts the other mayors said in a news release issued Tuesday, urging the County Council to delay or deny the zoning change.
"A development this size, currently unavailable infrastructure, insufficient funding for improvements, and intense impact on the west side should not be rushed, lest it be done wrong, leaving a 50-plus-year mistake negatively affecting Salt Lake County and specifically west-side residents," Herriman Councilwoman Sherrie Ohrn told the County Council at Tuesday’s public hearing prior to the vote.
A handful of other Herriman residents called in to Tuesday’s meeting by phone to protest the development, including Daniel Kooyman, who said constant protests against high-density development in his city and around the county seem to always "fall on deaf ears."
"High density seems to be something that’s pushed over and over again. I moved here three years ago to try and get away from some of that," Kooyman said, adding that traffic feeding into the area will be a "nightmare."
But most County Council members decided to move forward with the development, arguing that Salt Lake County will need high-density, master-planned communities like Olympia to be ready for projected populations booms.
County Councilman Michael Jensen said he understands why "people are a little scared of density," but "moving forward, I think it’s going to be something we’re going to have to look forward to if the projections are true."
Bart Barker, general manager of the Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District, said the majority of the service district’s board — which includes mayors from the metro townships Kearns, Emigration Canyon, Magna, White City and Copperton — supports the project because "they don’t want to see haphazard growth" along the county’s west bench "that will produce sprawling homes and no revenue base for services."
How can we, in good faith, jam this down the throats of Riverton, South Jordan, Herriman and Copperton? For the life of me, I don’t understand how we can sit up here at this dias and say, ‘Well, all these people we’re impacting, we won’t give them the opportunity to talk.’
–Councilman Steve DeBry
Barker said as part of a development agreement up for consideration by the service district’s board next week, Olympia would be required to seek incorporation as a town as soon as 200 residential building permits are issued. Once the community’s population hits 1,000, it would automatically become a city, he said.
"We’re talking about building a city, not an unincorporated, sprawling community," Barker said, adding that the county’s west bench is expected to see growth of more than 400,000 people over the next few decades.
"In order for these homes to be affordable for our children or grandchildren, we need to do this responsibly," Barker said.
Olympia is projected to bring about 1,500 single-family homes on quarter-acre lots, about 2,485 village units (townhomes or similar) and about 4,783 apartment units. The town center area that would house the high-density residential construction and would also contain retail and office space, as well as a University of Utah campus.
"Right now, everybody might not be in agreement, but as this phases in over time, we’re going to make the infrastructure adjustments and changes that we need," Jensen said.
But Councilman Steve DeBry, the lone vote against the zoning change, tried unsuccessfully to delay the vote until more talks could happen with neighboring communities.
"How can we, in good faith, jam this down the throats of Riverton, South Jordan, Herriman and Copperton?" DeBry asked. "For the life of me, I don’t understand how we can sit up here at this dias and say, ‘Well, all these people we’re impacting, we won’t give them the opportunity to talk.’"
Councilwoman Jenny Wilson rebuked DeBry, saying Tuesday marked Salt Lake County’s third meeting on the project, and it had undergone a fair public process.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated how large the Daybreak development in South Jordan is and how many residents live there. The development houses an estimated 20,000 people in about 4,100 acres (nine people per acre), not 23,000 people in 2,000 acres (11 people per acre).