HERRIMAN — Emotions were high as a few hundred residents, many wearing red to show unity, nearly filled the auditorium at Herriman High School to discuss a controversial development with Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
They gathered Thursday evening to voice their concerns over a proposed 8,800-unit housing project that would be planted near their city.
The Olympia Hills development could bring more than 30,000 residents into a 930-acre area in unincorporated land west of Herriman, near 8500 West and 13100 South, according to Salt Lake County planning documents.
"I'm appalled that the council would even approve zoning for over 30,000 people to live in just over 900 acres," said Max Jenkins of Riverton.
McAdams, Salt Lake County Council members Jim Bradley, Ann Granato and Max Burdick and Herriman Mayor David Watts listened as dozens of residents aired their concerns for more than two hours.
The dispute began when, worried about the impact it could bring to their neighborhoods and roads, mayors and residents of nearby cities protested the development just before the Salt Lake County Council approved on June 5 rezoning to make way for Olympia Hills.
After widespread outcry against the project and the filing Monday of a referendum application to put the zoning change to a public vote, Salt Lake County leaders said Tuesday they might reverse their vote.
The council voted to put the zoning change on its meeting agenda for next Tuesday. During that meeting, they could choose to reverse the zoning change or change specific portions of the ordinance, council staff said.
McAdams also asked for the project to be put on hold. He was considering the possibility of vetoing the zoning change, which he has power to do by June 20. But he encouraged stakeholders to negotiate and possibly adjust Olympia Hills' planned density through changes to the development agreement. He "challenged" those involved to come to a new agreement by Friday.
During Thursday's town hall meeting, McAdams told the crowd that he was there to listen to them and would take their comments into consideration as he made his decision whether or not to veto the council's decision.
"The rapid growth that is happening along the Wasatch Front has hit home for every one of you right in this region," he said.
With growth, the community is "struggling to keep pace for the demand of transportation infrastructure, houses, schools, parks, trails and other facilities," McAdams said.
Despite the needs that come with growth, however, he said a thought he read in a recent newspapercolumn had an impact on him.
"Sometimes slowing down makes sense," McAdams said, quoting Deseret News columnist Jay Evensen. "The proposal as it stands right now needs to change," he added, to applause.
As residents explained why they oppose the project, many of them described the impact Olympia Hills would have on their roads and commute times, their water supply, their schools and increased crime rate that could come with high-density housing. Most said they want the project to be thrown out.
"We're a mess out here, and this'll make us a massive mess," said Scott Alden of Herriman. His statement was met with loud applause.
Jennifer Bangerter, also from Herriman, said "we have to look at what the future is holding. And if we don't look now, our kids, our grandkids are going to have to deal with so much more stuff than we can even imagine."
She said she is concerned that the project will hurt the community's taxpayers, adding that Herriman already has "one of the highest taxes in the valley."
Lisa Brown echoed Bangerter's statements and compared the development to stuffing a teenager's foot into a toddler's shoe.
"This development is not a good fit for this area. We have beautiful mountains, we have wonderful topography, we want to protect our natural resources out here as best as we can," she explained.
Darrell Robinson, a member of Jordan Board of Education, discussed how the project would impact the community's school system.
"To be quite honest, for a long, long time, our schools have been overcrowded," he said, adding that the "tough" issues in schools can be dealt with better if schools are less crowded.
Many said they are not opposed to growth but want it better-planned and want more single-family housing rather than high-density housing.
Others, discussing the idea of growth from tech companies and their employees moving to the area to create "Silicon Slopes," said they don't want the area to turn into another California.
Jane Rollins, of South Jordan, said she lives in Daybreak, a master-planned community that has been compared to the planned Olympia Hills — but on a smaller scale. Her husband works in the tech industry.
"(In Daybreak) there's a mix of family homes, there's a mix of townhomes, and there's a mix of apartments, and I love it," she said.
However, she said, the Daybreak community was planned in "responsible ways and thoughtful ways," she said.26 comments on this story
"There's a feeling here that is special of Utah that I want to continue for my children. We need to plan for this growth," she said.
Rollins said single-family homes cost too much for many of her generation of millennials.
"If we're demanding single-family homes but you're supplying us with apartments, that doesn't fix the problem," she said.
Justin Swain, a Herriman resident who championed the referendum to reverse the zoning change through a Change.org petition, said "hold this rezoning back, and let the citizens who actually will be affected by it have a voice."