SALT LAKE CITY — Developers pulled out all the stops Tuesday to sell the Salt Lake County Council on a new version of the massive, Daybreak-like development near Herriman that was once scrapped amid public outcry.
Now, developers Doug Young and Cory Shupe and their “world class” team are pitching what they say is a scaled down but “dramatically better” proposal for Olympia Hills they hope county officials will approve in the coming months.
“We’re not quite sure what anybody who would be opposing this project would actually support other than urban sprawl,” Bruce Baird, the developers’ legal counsel, told the Salt Lake County Council.
The new proposal is to build about 6,330 units on about 933 acres in a mix of housing types, all the way from apartments to single-family homes, as well as commercial spaces, common areas, open space, a trail system and more. It would also include a 100-acre Utah State University Educational campus with the potential for a variety of offerings, including an “agricultural center” with barns and farms.
In their pitch, developers painted a rosy picture for what Olympia Hills, situated near 8500 West and 13100 South, could be.
They said it could be a solution to combat poorly planned communities and road systems that have contributed to the east-west traffic in Salt Lake County’s southwest. They said it could help offer housing to a mix of incomes and cater to homebuyers who can’t otherwise afford or want single-family homes. They said it could help keep Silicon Slopes’ tech industry thriving. And they said it could be what a true master-planned community should be — one that will allow people to live where they work.
“We’re not trying to do the average,” said Mark Boud, chief economist and advisory principal of Metrostudy, a national research firm specializing in housing and economic data. “We’re trying to avoid the piecemeal and uncoordinated sprawl that tends to occur over time.”
The example is South Jordan’s Daybreak, a massive, 4,000-acre development some point to as the state’s best example of a master planned community. But Boud said the Olympia Hills team wants to “take Daybreak one step further” by ensuring commercial buildings come with the housing, not after.
“If you do that, that is the true master plan. I do master plans throughout the country, and rarely do I get an opportunity to create something that is truly balanced,” Boud said. “This is a large enough piece, and it’s early enough along in the process where you can actually create that balance and do something really really special. And I hope we get the chance to do that.”
The developers’ presentation Tuesday came as Salt Lake County leaders set two public hearings on the new Olympia Hills proposal — one for 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Salt Lake County Government Center, 2001 S. State Street, and one 6 p.m. Jan. 28 in a location in Herriman yet to be determined.
As they scheduled those meetings, the County Council braced for more public opposition.
When Olympia Hills was first proposed — passed by the Salt Lake County Council before it was vetoed by former Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams right before his congressional bid — it would have brought more than 8,700 units.
The second round for Olympia Hills comes as county and city leaders eye about 32,000 acres of Salt Lake County’s last remaining undeveloped land and grapple with how those remaining acres can be developed in a coordinated way to avoid exacerbating the gridlock already creating headaches for east-west commuters in the area of the valley west of I-15.
To the developers, Olympia Hills is the Salt Lake County Council’s chance to do something different.
“It’s easy to do the same thing that’s been done again and again and again and not have the courage to really do something different that’s really needed,” Boud said. “So while I certainly encourage you to listen to all of those homeowners that are currently out there, my feeling is you’ll need to think out of the box ... as to what this community really needs. Because you will know that far better than any member of that community. You will know what they need because you’re hearing all of this information, you see the growth that’s coming on, you’re able to coordinate it.”
Justin Swain, a Herriman resident and member of the group Utah for Responsible Growth who last year filed paperwork for a petition to put Olympia Hills to a referendum had it not been vetoed, said his group is “happy” Salt Lake County will be holding public hearings on the new proposal in Herriman — but he wasn’t sold on the developers’ pitch Tuesday.
“We love the concept of Olympia Hills as a master planned development with businesses and commercial and open space and a mix of housing,” he told the Deseret News. “I have absolutely no problem with that. The concern is just this feeling of they’re really trying to push a square peg into a round hole.”
Swain pointed to other national experts who say the key to a successful high-density development is to build it around an “urban core” — and “not on the outskirts of town” like the area outside of Herriman. He said he’s heard the same arguments with the same selling points before for bringing density out to his city, and it hasn’t worked so far.
“We don’t have the luxury of the dream. We live there,” Swain said. “And all I know is I look around at where this is at, and this is as far out in Salt Lake County as you can get.”
Swain said he wants to work with the developers and not be a stubborn opposition group, but he is leaning toward asking the Salt Lake County Council to wait for completion of the Southwest Visioning Study (a study funded by cities and the county to research ways to better coordinate regional growth in the area) before approving any development on the scale of Olympia Hills.
“Something is going to get approved there. I’d be fine if it’s Olympia Hills in some form,” Swain said. “We just want it to be done in a responsible and sustainable way.”