New version of Olympia Hills faces criticism at first public hearing

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County Council members hear from Salt Lake County residents regarding the proposed 933 acre Olympia Hills, high-density development proposed just west of Herriman.

Opposition to Olympia Hills is running high among residents and elected leaders in cities near the proposed development, judging from its first public hearing.

Nearly 100 residents and officials turned out to Salt Lake County Council chambers Tuesday evening — amid a heavy snowstorm — and many said the new 933-acre, 6,330-home residential and commercial development being planned on county-governed land west of Herriman threatens their quality of life.

In spite of the region’s ongoing need for more housing and extensive county planning behind the latest version of Olympia Hills, about a dozen residents of Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and elsewhere said the project is too big and has potential to worsen the area’s already congested highways, particularly for commuters.

“This is Daybreak on steroid, because it’s twice as dense,” Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs told the council, referring to the master planned community in nearby South Jordan. He and others urged county officials to delay the project for further study.

Worries also surfaced about additional crowding in the area’s public schools and upward pressure on taxes in the region during the two-hour hearing — the first of two public listening sessions.

Sonia Salari, a Herriman resident, echoed others in saying that the southwest part of Salt Lake County was rapidly losing the last of its green, open and rural qualities, a trend that would be hastened by Olympia Hills. She also noted that traffic was already often snarled along 13400 South, a key east-west route in that area.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Herriman City Council member Jared Henderson said past elected leaders in his and nearby cities had already approved construction of too many homes over the last decade and allowed them to be built too densely.

As a result, “every artery is clogged,” Henderson said. Olympia Hills, he said, would push that over the top “and what happens in that corner of the valley has a cascading effect downstream.”

A second 6 p.m. public hearing on the development is planned for Jan. 28 at Copper Mountain Middle School, 12106 South Anthem Park Blvd. (approx. 5600 West) in Herriman. County officials have also launched a website, olympiahillsrezone.com, with information on their review.

Several residents near the project said they had planned to monitor Tuesday’s hearing online in light of inclement weather, but, according to county officials, that electronic feed failed near the start of the meeting. Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton at one point resorted to streaming the hearing with her phone.

Second go-round

Olympia Hills is proposed on open farmland located approximately between 6300 West and 8500 West and 14000 South and 13100 South in the unincorporated southwest portion of the county.

Among the largest developments now under review in Utah, the project would be built in phases over 25 years, with a new set of county rules requiring a wide mix of housing types and commercial buildings with a variety of styles, shapes and height. Each new community within Olympia Hills would need separate county approval.

With its focus on relatively small blocks, interconnected streets, walkability and clustering homes to produce large swaths of shared open spaces, the latest version of Olympia Hills is more akin to South Jordan’s Daybreak, the 4,100-acre master planned community opened in 2004. The plans also call for about 1.8 million square feet of new office and retail space, in addition to housing.

Nearly 100 acres in Olympia Hills would be set aside for a Utah State University agricultural center and campus.

This is the development’s second quest for county approval. It’s unclear for now when the County Council might vote up or down on the latest proposal, which calls for changes rezoning the site to make way for a master planned community.

A larger version of the Olympia Hill development was approved by the County Council over the summer of 2018, only to be vetoed by then-County Mayor Ben McAdams after several huge public rallies in opposition.

Developer Doug Young and his partner Cory Shupe filed a revised application for the project in June, following a list of demands from the county for changes and a series of detailed traffic studies and other analyses mandated at the developers’ expense.

Bruce Baird, attorney for the developers Doug Young and his partner Cory Shupe, said at Tuesday’s hearing the project has been vastly improved the second time around. In addition to design standards, the new agreement, he said, also included requirements for the developers to pay for road and other upgrades prompted by the project, both inside Olympia Hills and in surrounding communities.

“All of these are improvements from the last application you approved 8-to-1,” Baird told the council.

Baird said there were the major advantages of a master planned community to “an area we know is going to develop.” Continuing prior patterns of developing a series of one-off subdivisions risked creating monotonous development without character, he said, and setting up a “race to the bottom” in construction standards.

But area residents have hotly disputed the idea of that trade-off. In a statement read Tuesday on his behalf, Justin Swain, an organizer with Herriman for Responsible Growth, said opposing Olympia Hills was not akin to supporting sprawl or opposing multi-family housing— but rather, a matter of defending rights for existing residents.

“Please develop our community the right way by waiting,” Swain said in his statement.