By Mayor Trent Staggs
Our city, and the southwest part of Salt Lake County is growing considerably. We have about one-third of the county population. And, with the bulk of undeveloped property left in the county, we could see that grow to over 40% of the total population in the next 30 years.
Recently, a common theme put forth by some state and county officials, as well as some special interest and advocacy groups, is that the southwest part of the county needs to absorb the growth that is coming and be willing to allow high density housing options in our communities. This common theme, it seems, is coming largely from people who don’t live in our area, don’t understand the desires of our residents, or even understand what planning decisions we have already made.
The first major attempt we have seen recently to make our communities bear the burden of growth for the entire county was the unveiling of the Olympia Hills development project last summer. The proposal would have added 8,700+ units on about 930 acres just to the west of Herriman; likely bringing in over 30,000 residents. This proposal brought several mayors in our part of the county together to draft a letter of opposition, due to the strain it would place on existing infrastructure, and to begin a more open dialogue on issues that affect our area.
Since that time, myself and mayors from Bluffdale, Copperton Township, Herriman, South Jordan, and West Jordan have been meeting monthly to discuss and identify our top, common priorities related to infrastructure, housing, transportation and other funding disparities with our state and county officials. What we have found as we have compiled data from each of our communities is that our respective municipalities have already planned for a considerable amount of multifamily or higher density dwellings. Taking into account all that is currently built and planned to be built, multifamily represents around 30% of all the housing stock in our SW communities. Herriman itself is over 40%. These numbers are at or exceed the composition of housing in other cities in the county.
What we have also identified is that our communities, when compared to others in Salt Lake County, haven’t been provided with a proportionate or fair share of county and state resources to support critical infrastructure, transportation, and cultural/recreational options as we have grown. One need only look at the east-west connectivity problems we have, or the fact that critical overpass projects on Bangerter Highway remain unfinished and aren’t planned for years into the future in some cases. Public transportation options are woefully inadequate for our area, with only two core bus routes available south of South Jordan. And, although our communities comprise about one third of county population, our share of ZAP and TRCC funding is only around 7% of all county spending. This prolonged disparity exists despite the fact that our residents pay the same sales tax for the service that other communities in the county do.
Now, my point is that southwest Salt Lake County communities should not be treated disproportionally with state and county resources, nor should they be expected to bear the brunt of any perceived housing gap. Each community should be allowed to maintain planning decisions at the local level, that represent the desires of the residents who live in those communities.
Looking to the future, Riverton and our neighboring communities hope to conduct an analysis on transportation and infrastructure issues that are regionally significant, and work toward common goals with a united front. We have already began engaging our state and county representatives about our needs and hope to work with them as we find solutions to our most pressing problems and seek to improve the quality of life in our communities.