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Wal-Mart eyes Saratoga

Officials see a need in north Utah County city

Deseret Morning News graphic

SARATOGA SPRINGS — One of the fastest-growing cities in Utah may soon get another sign to show that it's growing up.

Wal-Mart officials are looking at Saratoga Springs as a possible site for another store in north Utah County.

"It's a great community down there, with Saratoga Springs, Lehi and Eagle Mountain," Wal-Mart spokesman Ryan Horn said. "We're looking at it, and it looks like there may be some people who are not being served."

Horn said no decision has been made and declined to speculate when a decision could be reached.

He said the company considers two questions when selecting sites for new stores: if there are customers in the area that need to be served better, and if so, whether Wal-Mart could fill that void.

A Smith's grocery store and several other businesses operate in Saratoga Springs.

Horn said the presence of competing stores is not a major factor in the company's decision regarding store placement, and rumors that a competitor may be moving into nearby Eagle Mountain before Wal-Mart comes to Saratoga Springs would not play a role in the company's decision or timetable.

"We're typically in a situation where we don't really respond to our competitors or rumors of competition," Horn said. "We're really just about serving customers."

Mayor Tim Parker said he heard a rumor a few months ago that Wal-Mart was considering a smaller neighborhood store for Saratoga Springs, but said he hadn't heard anything for a while.

"This doesn't surprise me at all," he said. "It's a great opportunity for any store that comes in."

Parker said the city has not actively pursued retail stores through incentives like tax breaks, but has cooperated with retailers interested in coming to the area.

Parker said the city has made it a high priority to upgrade its transportation infrastructure in order to maintain commercial growth.

"We anticipate continued rapid growth," he said. "The only thing is that I think the transportation infrastructure lags a bit, maybe, behind what a store like Wal-Mart is used to."

Parker said the city has been working closely with the state to upgrade state-owned roads like U-68 and U-73, which meet on the northwest side of town at what is quickly becoming one of the county's busiest intersections.

The City Council also recently approved a transportation impact fee for new developments in order to raise funds for transportation projects.

"It was very painful," Parker said of the impact fee. "But after analysis, it's an important investment we're making in order to keep up with all of the growth."

The intersection of U-68 and U-73 is one of the prime spots where a Wal-Mart could be built. A major retail development is beginning construction on the northeast corner. Owners of the development could not be reached for comment.

The Smith's is on the southeast corner, and a gas station is on the northwest corner. The southwest corner remains farmland.

Parker said he didn't know if any controversies would arise if Wal-Mart did choose to build in Saratoga Springs, but said he would not be opposed to the possibility.

"My personal opinion is that I don't see this as a negative thing," he said.