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Mayoral candidates are trying to ease tension in Orem

Residents are unhappy with the ramifications of rapid growth, and both mayoral challenger and incumbent are trying to ease the tensions caused by more traffic, more building and more people.

Orem's 1997 population of 85,000 residents reflects an increase of more than 30,000 since 1980.While those on the outside of city government looking in may see opportunities lost for existing businesses and decisions apparently made long before they reach the public-hearing stage, those already in the hot seats say they're doing their best and what is legally mandated by decisions and policies made long before.

Residents don't understand why developments are approved that affect neighborhoods. They want more advance warning of changes being considered and a slowdown in the growth.

There also has been unrest over tax-rebate incentives offered to businesses newly locating in Orem.

Issues raised by mayoral candidate Joe Nelson and incumbent Stella Welsh range from whether the city is lighted well enough at night to concerns over traffic on Geneva Road.

Residents often resist the imposition of a lighting district for a neighborhood. The city has, until recently, determined that those who want street lights ought to pay for them.

However, rising crime in dark areas is persuading city officials to look at other ways to provide citywide lighting.

Road construction is under way in several areas, using funds approved by voters in a $10 million bond election last November, including widening 800 East and taking 800 South over the eastern hillside to connect to University Avenue.

Recently lifted was a six-month moratorium along 800 North to allow time for planning how that state road could be widened with the least impact.

Concerns about traffic along the stretch of Geneva Road that includes new construction for Utah Valley State College and new housing developments are becoming more of a priority.

With Orem fast approaching being filled with buildings, how to best preserve enough open space is a question that greatly concerned officials involved with a controversial land swap for 200 acres in the southwest part of town.

Land for a park to be known as Lakeside Park was traded to obtain the larger piece that could be used for a municipal golf course along with providing space for more baseball diamonds and soccer fields.

Those supporting the land swap declare that open space is in limited supply in Orem and should be secured when the opportunity comes about.

Those opposed feel city officials worked in the dark to obtain the 200-acre parcel and reversed themselves on promises made to residents living around the proposed Lakeside Park.

In addition, Orem is now of the size it takes a mayor putting in full-time hours to guide the city along with a full-time city manager. Many are wondering if it is time to call for a full-time mayor rather than a part-time mayor devoting 40 hours a week voluntarily.