Anti-Olympia Hills Referendum OK’d to start gathering signatures

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Teddy Hodges of Herriman, hands out shirts expressing opposition to the proposed Olympia Hills development prior to Salt Lake County Council taking the first of two votes on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, on a set of zoning changes for the controversial new housing and commercial development proposed on unincorporated county land on Herriman's western border. The County Council approved the zoning changes 6-to-3, as residents from Herriman, Bluffdale and Riverton who oppose the project turned out for the hearing to voice their concerns.

A referendum launched by Salt Lake County residents to stop the controversial Olympia Hills development has been approved by the County to start gathering signatures.

The group said it expects to be afforded the same considerations as candidates for office after Gov. Gary Herbert suspended in-person signature requirements that have been called into question because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Utah For Responsible Growth Spokesperson Lorin Palmer said in a news release Wednesday that the group will collect signatures electronically. “In an effort to continue social distancing measures that help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we will begin collecting electronic signatures similar to the order Gov. Gary R. Herbert issued on March 26, 2020.”

This order suspended certain requirements for the signature gathering process in order for candidates to get on the ballot. Provisions that each signature must be witnessed in person and that the entire petition be presented to each would-be signer were lifted.

“In a ‘matter of fairness and preserving the integrity’ of the referendum process in these unusual times, we are confident Governor Herbert will issue an Executive Order that will allow us to gather signatures electronically,” said Palmer.

The revised Olympia Hills project plan was approved by Salt Lake County Council March 3. It calls for up to 6,330 new single-family homes, town homes and apartments and 1.8 million square feet of office and retail spaces to be built over 25 years in an unincorporated southwest portion of Salt Lake county.

For almost two years, residents of Herriman, Bluffdale, Riverton and adjoining communities have gone to rallies and public meetings to voice their opposition to the project, which they fear will worsen traffic, overwhelm public schools and have other adverse effects on their quality of life.

The development is also opposed by mayors and other elected officials from those cities, many of whom say the county has ignored their concerns.

The original plan was vetoed by then-County Mayor Ben McAdams and underwent extensive revisions by the developers before the County Council granted its OK last month.

Utah law sets a high standard for referendum efforts. Now that Utah For Responsible Growth has secured county approval for the petition effort, they have 45 days to gather signatures from 16% of Salt Lake County’s active voters, both countywide and within at least five of the county’s seven council districts.

According to a state elections official, the number of active voters in the county stands at 541,555 — meaning opponents need to gather 86,648 valid signatures countywide to qualify for the ballot.

“We do not have any time to waste in order to meet our deadline, so we must take action now. We need your help!” said group said.

More information is available at https://utahforresponsiblegrowth.org/.