The Salt Lake County Council will formally reconsider its approval of a planned high-density housing development in the wake of fierce objections by residents and elected leaders of its neighboring cities.
Council members voted unanimously on Tuesday to include the Olympia Hills project on its agenda next week, signaling an intention to delay, change or stop the creation of roughly 8,800 housing units on 938 acres of unincorporated land near Herriman.
“I think it’s become clear to the council — based on this public process — that it didn’t have the reach to the public on education and input that we all thought it had,” said County Councilman Michael Jensen.
Under its current proposal, Olympia Hills would be among the most densely populated areas in Salt Lake County, with 4,783 apartments, 2,485 town houses and 1,497 single-family homes, as well as retail space and a 100-acre Utah State University satellite campus.
A zoning change, approved by the County Council 7-1 last week, was opposed by the mayors of Herriman, Riverton, West Jordan and Copperton Township, who wrote in a joint letter that “the sheer number of units in the development is nothing short of overwhelming.”
Area residents were also concerned, launching an online petition that quickly gathered thousands of signatures and calling for a mayoral veto and a referendum vote to overturn the council’s decision. The outcry prompted Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams to request a delay, and he added that he was open to a veto of the council’s decision.
Tuesday evening, McAdams tweeted that he would veto the zoning change if the development plans were not “substantially improved.”
Jensen said the council needs to remain “in the driver’s seat.” But he conceded that a pause was necessary to continue studying the developer’s plans and to seek compromises that would mitigate the concerns of residents. He suggested the developer could pay for a study of transportation demands in southwest Salt Lake County, and that more effort be made to coordinate the growth plans of neighboring municipalities.
“There really hasn’t been a lot of coordination between these cities down in the southwest valley,” he said.
Jenny Wilson, a member of the County Council, said the challenge is balancing the “exciting” elements that accompany population growth with the need to preserve quality of life.
Despite the laborious process that led up to the council’s vote, Wilson said, the public at large had not had sufficient opportunity to engage in the debate over Olympia Hills.
“I hope that the public is in a position to be a little bit patient,” she said.
Councilman Richard Snelgrove directly credited the public response for the council’s decision to reconsider its actions.
“We value the input of the people we serve,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s their government.”
The Salt Lake County Council will meet Tuesday, June 19, at 4 p.m