This bedroom community southwest of Salt Lake City proudly bills itself as offering "quality life just off the fast lane."

South Jordan fiercely protects its rural setting and quality lifestyle but faces an "acute need" for more commercial development, Mayor Theron B. Hutchings told the Deseret News.Providing elite housing within an aesthetic rural environment - without overburdening citizens with a heavy tax - is a delicate balancing act. South Jordan residents pay some of the highest taxes in the state. Fire, police protection and government services must be extremely efficient, operating on a minimal budget because of the lean tax base, the mayor said.

"We want South Jordan to become the Holladay of the west side," said Hutchings. Developers are required to plant trees to enhance the natural beauty of the area, and most housing lot sizes are kept at a minimum of one-third of an acre.

A suggestion by West Jordan to merge with South Jordan to create a Jordan City has been repeatedly nixed by South Jordan officials. West Jordan officials had thought their neighbor could benefit from their strong commercial tax base. But Hutchings said South Jordan "isn't at all interested."

"We want to have a good relationship with West Jordan and the other cities that surround us. But people here like what they have and they don't want to downgrade our community's standard of living. We don't have gang problems right now. We want to control our growth and manage any population challenges to avoid the crime problems of larger cities," he said.

To encourage more commercial development, Hutchings said South Jordan has rolled out the welcome mat - but it does not come with any accompanying perks, such as donation of land, that other cities can offer.

Harmon's owns land in South Jordan, but the company is waiting until the city's population is about 80,000. Population is currently at about 20,000. The city is benefiting from the new Smith's Food and Drug recently opened in June and hopes similar stores will choose to build in South Jordan.

While City Hall is busy sending a message to the business community that South Jordan is a great place to invest in the future, it's a challenge persuading some citizens to welcome businesses to their neighborhood. When an Arctic Circle recently wanted to locate in South Jordan, citizens banded together to discourage the move because of concerns about the fast-food restaurant attracting the "wrong" crowd. The Arctic Circle located in West Jordan instead.

"Now all our high school kids go to West Jordan to eat burgers," said Hutchings. "West Jordan is getting a lot of our consumer business."

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Brochures sent to businesses emphasize South Jordan's central position in the valley as the population moves south and west, and the city's easy access to the Orem/Provo area. Also, the city is growing dramatically at a rate of 13 to 14 percent per year, promising a population to support new businesses, said Hutchings.

Hutchings, who grew up on a farm in South Jordan, said it pains him to see fields of alfalfa turned into housing developments. He said farmers must sell their land because they can no longer afford expensive farming equipment. Since growth is inevitable, it should be managed.

When Hutchings first became mayor in 1984, he looked ahead to the phenomenal growth of his rural community. Consulting a panel of 80 citizens, a master plan was developed so growth has been planned.

"If a business person studies the advantages of locating in South Jordan, the possibilities of the future become clear. Our future will mean becoming one of the choicest areas in the valley to live," said Hutchings.

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