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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
James Wood, director of the U.'s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, stands on a bluff above St. George.

When it comes to growth in Washington County, it's not just a matter of finding developable land. It's also a matter of who owns the land you find.

Only 16 percent of the land in the county is private. For it to reach a population of 600,000, an additional 30,000 to 40,000 residential acres and 10,000 commercial acres are needed, according to James Wood, director of the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

A large amount of private land southwest of Hurricane is anticipated to be developed. And Wood said about 50 percent of the private land in the county is already developed, leaving about 125,000 acres of private land undeveloped.

Yet just how much of this land is developable is a key question. Land availability won't be a constraint in the moderate term — 20 to 25 years — but could become an issue after 2025, depending on how much of the undeveloped private land is developable, Wood said in a report commissioned by the Deseret Morning News.

Large tracts of land are being developed by the state School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. These SITLA lands were granted to the states with the expectation that the proceeds from their sale or use would be used to support public schools.

Over the past few decades, SITLA has assembled, through trades and purchases, large tracts of land in Washington County.

Currently its holdings total about 28,000 acres, of which 12,000 acres are developable. SITLA holdings, Wood said, include some of the most valuable developable lands in the county.

Currently, SITLA has three projects under development — Coral Canyon, Fort Pierce Industrial Park and SunRiver — and one project in site preparation, Sienna Hills, a mixed-use residential and commercial community of 700 acres.

Coral Canyon is a planned community of about 2,100 acres that includes homes, businesses, churches, schools and golf, Wood said in his report. The community, which is planned to have roughly 3,000 residential units, is about one-third developed.

At 250 acres, SunRiver is an age-restricted development for people 55 and older with 1,000 homes developed and a build-out of 2,200 homes anticipated.

Fort Pierce Industrial Park has 800 acres available for commercial use, with 190 acres that have been developed. Businesses include Blue Bunny Ice Cream and Deseret Laboratories.

Scott Hirschi, director of the Washington County Economic Development Council and a former director of SITLA, estimates that about 1,000 employees work at the Fort Pierce site.

"The market here is so robust," Hirschi said. "We continue to have very strong interest from both manufacturers and distribution facilities."

E-mail: danderton@desnews.com