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WHAT’S IN A NAME? WISHFUL THINKING

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Mountain Shadows Apartments sit in shadow only about half the time. And that's between the hours of sunset and sunrise.

The West Valley City complex is smack in the flat heart of the sunny-by-day Salt Lake Valley, miles from the nearest shadow-casting topography. The Wasatch Mountains are off to the east, out of view for residents whose units face west, where in the distance the Oquirrh Mountains would be visible if not for Timbercreek Apartments across the street. Those are situated at the bustling five-lane intersection of 4000 South and 700 West, noticeably lacking in either timber or creek.But that's not unusual. Poetic license transcends reality when it comes to christening real estate, a phenomenon hardly limited to rentals.

The joke at Misty Hills, a West Jordan subdivision, is that the only mist in the neighborhood is the air pollution that gets trapped beneath the Salt Lake Valley's infamous cold-weather temperature inversions.

Why the name, then?

"We don't really know," sighed Tina Nielsen, a Realtor who sells houses for the area's builder, Speck Construction. "We're in West Jordan, so we're not anywhere near any mist."

It seems the area, which caters to home-hunters looking for a domicile costing less than $100,000, got its evocative moniker over a decade ago from its original and label-creative developers.

But this is how it's always been along the Wasatch Front's vast and ever-burgeoning suburbs, said George Shaw, the planning director for Sandy, one of many fast-growing cities where builders are tasked with the always challenging job of inventing new street and subdivision names to keep up with the boom. County governments in Utah generally prohibit the same one being used more than once.

"I wrote a paper about it in college," said Shaw, a 1976 urban-geography graduate of Brigham Young University. "I looked at Orem, and there were two common themes. They'd usually have some kind of water in them or something that connotes green, both of which are foreign to Utah."

Examples abound.

In an undeveloped part of the Walnut Hills subdivision at the very edge of suburbia in far-west Salt Lake County, a lonely for-sale sign sits in a wheat field beneath deep blue skies and a high-voltage power line.

Terry Dorsey, a Realtor marketing the property for Ron Thorne Homes, said the name comes from a distant and unknown source who could've done better.

"When we bought it we were stuck with it because it was on the original plat," said Dorsey. "I always thought it was kind of a dumb name, not something we'd necessarily pick. I think West Ridge or something like that probably would've been better."

"I've got one now called Cinammon Tree," added Dorsey. "Go figure that one out."

Same goes for Stillwater Way in West Valley City, where there isn't much in the way of still water, unless you count the occasional thunderstorm runoff that collects in a low place at the corner of 3930 South.

Starlite Drive, a quiet semirural avenue in West Jordan, might have been aptly named at one time, but as tract housing approaches, how long can its after-dark ambience survive? And what can you say about Temple View Drive in South Jordan, where you have to stand on the roof to get a glimpse of the Jordan River Temple, glittering by night several blocks, a shopping center and a high school away?

Even the very affluent have their neighborhood-name foibles.

Water Vista Way, a private drive that has a locked gate to keep out the riff-raff and features some of Sandy's highest-dollar homes, abuts a non-picturesque creek bed that's dry as a bone most of the year.

Pepperwood, one of the city's most exclusive areas, is named after something that doesn't exist anywhere on Earth.

And at Oakshadows Circle, the only evidence of the namesake are a dozen scrawny trees not quite up to the eaves of the seven houses around the out-of-the-way court.

"A lot of these names are chosen just to sound nice," explained Bob Taylor, an associate with Ulrich Realtors of Midvale, who said the Salishan subdivision of Riverton was named for "a resort on the East Coast where one principal in the company went for a convention."

"The names are just a sales thing to interest people," said Shaw, who added, however, that some apply.

Whoever named Victor's Pond on the north end of Draper might have done worse.

The under-construction project, a middle- to upper-middle-class group of 151 houses that has just started filling up, sits on a sloping piece of land above a mostly out-of-sight pond on what's left of a farm that is now largely surrounded by civilization.

Developer Pat Holmes of Holmes and Associates said the namesake will remain intact, safe from the encroachment of developers and preserved one day as a wetlands park.

The tiny and quaint body of water presents a pretty oasis in the suburban desert and is in view of a few houses, though for most it's down the street, around the corner, across some yards, somewhere out there.

In fact, indeed, Victor's Pond is real.

It's just that from most vantage points in the neighborhood, you can't quite see the thing.