Letters: Utah has too many people, not enough roads

(Rachel Molenda | The Salt Lake Tribune) People sign petitions against the Olympia Hills Project, a proposed 8,800-home development project in the southwest part of the county, on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams held a public meeting to hear concerns from residents about the development.

The argument raised by the high-density development of Olympia Hills west of Herriman brings us to the real reason so many Utahns are less than enchanted with the rush to develop and grow that seems to obsess our legislators and governor: Developers are not required to improve existing infrastructure surrounding the new cities they create. Once they have made their fortunes, it is left to taxpayers to support new roadways, curb and gutter, and eminent domain costs to get new residents in and out of their little cities.

As residents of Utah County, we witnessed the County Commission’s approval of development in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. Gary Herbert was a county commissioner at the time and, as always, a proponent of unfettered growth. As the building boom in these two communities took off, it became apparent that the commission’s plans had not taken into consideration the inadequate infrastructure needed to support the needs of thousands of new residents. The main two-lane road through downtown Lehi was packed with commuters, causing unbelievable traffic jams that lasted for years. And eventually it was Utah taxpayers, and not the developers, who paid to correct this chaos. (And have you been to Thanksgiving Point recently? There are too many people, offices, restaurants and retail businesses, and too few roads.)

This happens over and over in Utah because our Legislature is loaded with developers and real-estate moguls. Even our governor was a Realtor, serving as president of the Utah Association of Realtors. They love this system because there is no law that says developers have to make allowances for the existing infrastructure (i.e., the roads into Olympia Hills can’t support 30,000 new residents) or to anticipate and improve the surrounding transportation needs.

The deck is stacked in favor of developers. It’s no wonder residents of southwestern Salt Lake Valley are concerned — they have seen the way this works and it will be a disaster for them for years to come and they will end up paying for the improvements while the developers walk away with bulging wallets.

Until we start electing people to our Legislature who actually have the best interests of Utahns in general and not their robber-baron cohorts, we will continue to see the bloating of Utah with residential and business developments (i.e., the current site of the prison) that will create increasingly worse traffic nightmares, more traffic accidents, frustration and aggravation, and more of our tax dollars needed to funnel to the Department of Transportation.

Candace Jacobson, Provo