With its community on the brink of what is likely to be a decade of unprecedented growth, the South Jordan City Council has adopted an economic development action plan that emphasizes preservation of existing community values.

The unanimous vote for the 54-page plan clears the way for city administrators to implement short- and long-range development programs, including a marketing strategy and financial incentives to new businesses."You can see that the Salt Lake Valley is growing rapidly in our direction, moving south and west," said City Administrator Richard Warne. "We're next, and we're ready for it."

Because South Jordan has not yet been overrun with residential and commercial development, it has an opportunity to promote growth that is compatible with its "rural residential character," Warne said.

According to the town's new master plan, "Through thoughtful planning and strict adherence to those plans, the city and its residents will be able to have the best of both worlds."

Assistant Administrator Anthony Murphy said, "There is a great deal of interest in our community - we are the fourth fastest-growing city in the state - and we want to encourage it and guide it. With this master plan, we can stay ahead of the growth."

Among the tools South Jordan may employ in its economic development effort are:

- Redevelopment Agency tax increment financing.

- Tax abatements when "appropriate and desirable."

- Credit for development fees, such as on building permits and other municipal services.

- City participation in infrastructure improvements, such as road construction and utility extensions and relocations.

- Use of special improvement district financing.

- Favorable zoning.

- Annexation.

Also, the master plan sets out a detailed marketing effort to promote economic development and inform interested businesses and industries of what the town has to offer.

And it stresses intergovernmental coordination, particularly in the development of the West Valley Highway and I-15 improvements. The plan also suggests continued cooperation with Sandy to develop a golf course adjacent to the Jordan River.

The city itself must maintain and improve its infrastructure and public areas, the plan adds, citing a number of specific goals. They include efforts to move the high tension power lines east of the Jordan River; construct an underpass beneath the railroad tracks at 10600 South; complete 9800 South from 1300 West to 4000 West; and continue the expansion of the secondary water system.

City officials believe that the areas with the most potential for future development are the freeway frontage and the Redwood Road-South Jordan Parkway corridors. A single major commercial development could kick off a period of intensive growth in those zones, Warne said.

South Jordan's population is expected to grow from 12,419 to more than 50,000 within the next couple of decades, which would make it a very attractive location for businesses. However, the master plan says the community must overcome several liabilities if it hopes to attract the right kind of development.

Noting that three of the top four tax-generating enterprises in South Jordan are convenience stores, the plan says, "The most important obstacle facing development in the city is the lack of a business base." Retail sales have never exceeded $10 million in a single year.

"By not having an established industrial or commercial base, economic development efforts cannot piggy-back on existing business strengths. In effect, the city must start from scratch and recruit businesses that will provide a strong base that attracts other similarly attractive businesses."

The plan also says South Jordan must overcome an anti-growth reputation and achieve an identity independent of its larger neighbors.

Murphy said the plan is intended to be a working document. "It won't be put on a shelf to gather dust," he insisted. "It gives us direction; it gets us started."

Warne added that the city's comprehensive planning system will ensure orderly development that is compatible with the lifestyle that attracted the current residents to the community.

"We know where we're going and we know how to get there," he said.