A pair of vast new subdivisions in the early stages of approval would double the population of this city by the late 1990s, according to developers and city planners.

Both efforts would contribute markedly toward what planners say is the inevitable wall-to-wall urbanization of the Wasatch Front from Salt Lake City to Provo. The projects are plotted on some of the last sizable privately held open space along the east side of the Salt Lake Valley.Developers of the area are capitalizing on a demographic boom in which Utah has become one of the fastest-growing states in the union.

"There are currently 1,600 to 1,700 homes in Draper, and when this project is completed - in, we think, maybe five years - it will add that many more," said Jay Christiansen, partner in a joint venture by Christiansen Construction Services and a company with Draper offices called Wasatch-Pacific.

The city has approved zoning for the project in recent months, expecting construction to start next fall, and has also given the green light to another effort - by Salt Lake-based Proterra Inc. - to build a road into an area that has been plotted for construction of more than 800 homes.

Charles W. Akerlow, president of Proterra, said that by spring between 350 and 380 lots in his group's project will be marketed to contractors.

The Wasatch-Pacific development - known as South Mountain - would stretch southwest from about 1300 East and 13800 South. The Proterra housing would begin farther south of that area and, according to Akerlow, reach eventually to the top of Traverse Ridge into Utah County.

"If you look at a satellite photo you'll see the north-south axis of home development and a big green spot in the middle - that's Traverse Ridge," said Akerlow. "The time for development is right. There is a market for eastside lots."

But there is concern in Draper, population about 7,500, that a headlong homebuilding drive wouldcause trouble.

"We're rushing too fast," said Mayor-elect Elaine Redd, who said housing projects add little to a town's tax base. She said chief among her worries is how public schools would keep up and how rapid urbanization would affect the quality of life in Draper, a town where horses outnumber people and where urban refugees have begun to flock in droves, lately paying in the neighborhood of $60,000 for undeveloped lots.

Paul Glauser, Draper's community development director, said the city is scrambling to rewrite ordinances that would protect green space by mandating new homes be clustered between open areas. He said the times lend themselves to such efforts.

"Right now with interest rates low people can afford to pay for a little more space around them," said Glauser. "We've got a community that is quite unique and our whole challenge is to protect that."

Draper this year has been split by fractious politics in which some residents with what Glauser calls a "drawbridge mentality" have argued for stringent curbs on development.

"There's a lot of concern among those who have been here five to 15 years," said Glauser, a recent town resident himself. "They came out, bought an acre or two and thought they'd live the good life in Draper and they've let it be known in many meetings that they don't like this."

"There are others who have owned land out here for a long time and who say to these newer people, `Hey, if I'd had my way you all wouldn't have started coming out here 65 years ago.' "

Akerlow declined to put a price tag on the Proterra development, but Christiansen said homes in the Wasatch-Pacific project would sell for between $125,000 and $185,000.

Redd said a number of other new but smaller subdivisions have been approved in Draper, and Glauser noted that about 800 Draper lots in addition to those in the Wasatch-Pacific and Proterra developments have received building permits.

The city is growing already at the rate of 15 percent to 20 percent each year, according to Glauser.

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Principals in Wasatch-Pacific, which has built a number of smaller subdivisions around Draper, include Terry Diehl and Dee Christiansen.

Akerlow is a former state Republican Party chairman who was sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion. He has been associated with a number of developments. He said Proterra's board chairman is Richard Prows, one of Salt Lake's best-known and most successful real-estate developers.

Akerlow said the Proterra project is backed by about a dozen investors.

Deseret News staff writer Jim Rayburn contributed to this story.

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