HERRIMAN — Amid backlash over the zoning change that cleared the way for a controversial, nearly 8,800-unit development west of Herriman, Salt Lake County leaders poised themselves Tuesday to perhaps reverse their vote.
The Salt Lake County Council agreed to consider rescinding or amending the zoning change last week that cleared the way for the Olympia Hills development, a community that would be modeled after Daybreak in South Jordan but much more dense.
"To the county residents and various city leaders who have voiced a number of concerns and raised questions regarding the Olympia development: We hear you," County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
"The questions are legitimate, and the members of our council have also asked for more information about the project and the best ways to mitigate impacts of growth in our valley," she said.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to set the potential zoning reversal or change on the agenda for its June 19 meeting. If it chooses to rescind the decision, the zoning change will be reversed entirely. If the council amends it, it could change specific portions of the ordinance, according to council staff.
Councilman Michael Jensen said he made Tuesday's motion after the "outpouring of the community" over the project.
"After talking with council members, I think we all feel that it's best the council puts a hold and a pause on this," he said, adding it's "become clear" that the public process leading up to the zoning change "didn't have the reach to the public … as we all thought it had."
Before voting in favor of Tuesday's action, Councilwoman Jenny Wilson told the public: "We have heard you."
"We're a little bit challenged in that we do have so much growth projected in this valley, and I know that there was a lot of emotion from people in the area," Wilson said. "But I want to just reiterate that we all here … really are just trying to figure out how we balance the exciting things that come with growth with our quality of life."
Councilman Steve DeBry — the sole council member who voted against the zoning change last week after he didn't have support from any of his colleagues to delay the vote — said after Tuesday's meeting he was "thankful and gratified" for his peers' change of heart. He just wished they would have decided to do so earlier.
"It would have been advantageous, it would have solved a lot of consternation, problems, misconceptions and a lot of anguish by a lot of different people if they would have just done that from the inception — but better late than never," he said.
The County Council's action comes after widespread outrage over the zoning change a week ago, which was protested by several city leaders near the 930-acre area, including Herriman, Riverton, West Jordan and the Copperton Township.
It also comes the day after a group ofconcerned residents filed a referendum application to attempt to block the development and put the zoning change up for a public vote. To put the issue on a ballot, the citizens would need to gather at least 84,000 signatures.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams had also asked to push pause on the project and mulled the possibility of vetoing the zoning change (an option that expires June 20), but he said he'd prefer to first try to find a solution through negotiations to perhaps adjust the development's density through changes to the development agreement.
McAdams said he "challenged" stakeholders to reach an agreement by Friday. Meanwhile, Herriman officials had also begun negotiations with the developer to perhaps annex the land.
But now, potential changes to the zoning fall into the Salt Lake County Council's hands.
Over the next week, council members plan to meet with the project's developer to discuss the project, density, needed improvements to infrastructure and potential impact to surrounding communities, Newton said.
The project's developer, Doug Young, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
McAdams called the council's Tuesday vote a "positive development," and one that gives elected officials the opportunity to "amend the agreement if we're able to find consensus."
If they can't find consensus, McAdams noted the "threat" of veto remains.
"While we're in the window that I have the power to veto or not veto, we want to try to bring people together. This is a significant opportunity that we have to give shape to the deal, and I don't think I'd be comfortable letting this moment pass without finding the common ground and that consensus," he said.
But the mayor said he's hopeful an agreement can be reached, noting that while he hasn't spoken directly with the developer, he had a "very productive" meeting with southwest valley mayors Monday.
"At a very high level, what we all agreed upon is that the density needs to be reduced and we'll have to take measures to slow down the pace of this development to give time for the transportation infrastructure to be built," McAdams said.7 comments on this story
The proposed Olympia Hills development is located in unincorporated county land between 6300 West and 8500 West and 12400 South and 13100 South.
Under the current zoning, southwest valley mayors worry it would create perhaps the state's most dense community.
As currently proposed, the development could attract roughly 30,000 residents to a 930-acre area, with plans calling for 4,783 apartments, 2,485 town houses and 1,497 single-family homes on quarter-acre lots, according to county planning documents.