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'It's time': Salt Lake leaders launch plan to develop area near new prison

SALT LAKE CITY — Last summer, Salt Lake City leaders fought adamantly against state lawmakers' decision to relocate the Utah State Prison from Draper to Utah's capital city.

But now, they're shifting their efforts to make the best of it.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced an "aggressive" two-year plan to lay the "backbone" of roads and water infrastructure to serve not only the new 4,000-bed prison facility west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, but also 3,600 acres of west-side land slated for light-industrial, commercial development.

The cost of the two first major roads and lines for water, sewer, gas, fiber-optic cables and lighting totals $90 million — of which $47 million will come from the state based on agreements to pay for the prison's needed infrastructure.

Salt Lake City will foot the remaining $43 million, intended to fund infrastructure that will have the capacity to later serve a greater service grid that Biskupski hopes will bring more industrial and manufacturing jobs to the city.

"We know the prison is coming; the deals are really done," Biskupski said. "So now is the time for us to partner with (the state). … That entire area will need greater service than just the prison itself."

For decades, Salt Lake officials have talked about developing the land west of the airport. In 2009, the City Council considered a master plan to build housing for 70,000 in the area, but the plan was abandoned after concerns were raised about building homes in the remote area encroaching on environmentally sensitive lands.

Then last year, the City Council adopted a different Northwest Quadrant Master Plan — one that called for development for industrial and commercial businesses that would benefit from proximity to the airport, while also setting aside nearly 4,000 acres of land to be preserved as open space.

Now, with the prison's relocation nearing, Biskupski said Salt Lake City must act to benefit from its infrastructure.

"It's time for us to get to work to make the economic opportunity of the northwest quadrant a reality," the mayor said.

And it's all supposed to be done without raising taxes.

As part of the prison package deal, Salt Lake City has the option to ask residents for a sales tax increase to help pay for the prison's impact. But Biskupski said Monday the sales tax is "not on the table at this point at all."

Salt Lake City Council Chairman James Rogers called the prison infrastructure plans a "perfect opportunity" for the city.

"I don't think there is anywhere in a capital city in the United States where you have 3,600 acres to develop for good jobs, good businesses, property tax and sales tax," Rogers said. "We talk about Silicon Slopes — that's only 700 acres. This is 3,600 acres of developable land."

Rogers said the Salt Lake City Council will discuss the plans with the mayor's administration during Tuesday's meeting, as well as continue discussions over the next two years as parcels come before the council for zoning discussions.

"Moving forward, we're going to make sure everything we approve is consistent with the (master plan)," he said.

According to the city's two-year plan, designs for infrastructure — water, sewer, lighting and fiber-optic networks — are scheduled to be released in January. That's also when a draft of the plan will be made available for public review.

Then in the fall, Salt Lake City is scheduled to complete zoning recommendations in the area and the Redevelopment Agency Board and other taxing entities will make a decision on the proposed project area and adopt a budget.

At the end of 2017, the mater plan for the future roadways is expected to be completed.

Land owners can then begin marketing land for development use around the beginning of 2018.

Infrastructure construction is slated for completion at the end of 2018. The state projects the prison's construction will wrap up at the end of 2020.

Vicki Bennett, director of Salt Lake City's Office of Sustainability, noted that Utah's capital faces an "incredible opportunity" to develop its west side with carbon emissions, energy use and efficiency in mind.

She said the plan includes a vision to protect open space, account for water and energy efficiencies and build active transportation options.

"We have the opportunity to design a smart and sustainable northwest quadrant," Bennett said. "(We) have the ability to capitalize on this moment and enrich our community from the ground up."