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Qiling Wang, Deseret News
New homes are under construction in Lehi on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.

PROVO — Utah County residents say high moral fiber and safe neighborhoods are the most critical building blocks to maintain high quality of life as leaders start planning for an expected 1 million new residents in the valley in coming decades.

And, the group of about 1,500 respondents underscored traffic/congestion and poor air quality as the issues that will have the greatest negative impacts on their collective quality of life in the future.

That feedback is part of an initial data set gathered by organizers of the Valley Visioning project, an effort launched in November aiming to navigate the impacts of the coming influx of new residents and their attendant needs in housing, employment, education, recreation and transport.

Projections anticipate that a full third of the expected 3 million new residents who will call Utah home in the next 50 years will make their way to Utah County. And, Utah County could surpass Salt Lake County in total population by 2065.

Valley Visioning co-chairman and executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, Val Hale, told the Deseret News on launch of the project that the scale of the expected growth requires a careful, forward-looking plan to ensure that quality-of-life issues are not undermined amid the population explosion.

"Utah County has always had a lot of land to work with and has been able to build out and grow in really unfettered ways," Hale said. "But, those days are now past. We know the population will double in the next 30 years, and if the Utah Valley is going to continue to be a great place to live we need to plan for, and prepare for, that growth.

"We need to be purposeful and smart about the way that happens."

The first set of resident feedback assembled by the project, which is being coordinated by nonprofit planning group Envision Utah, came via an online survey. Other highlights from the data include residents' preference for suburban neighborhoods, but with 40 percent hoping for something "more walkable" and ranking water management, transportation improvements and reducing air pollution as the top three priorities "when considering future growth."

Envision Utah President and Chief Operating Officer Ari Bruening said the effort is similar to another project his firm is coordinating for the Point of the Mountain Redevelopment Commission. Bruening noted data gathered for the Point of the Mountain study, which includes an area encompassing both southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County, will be helpful but expects that the Valley Visioning work of "gathering input from broader Utah County ... will be area specific" and help hone in on the concerns of the county's residents.

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While the online survey can still be found on the Valley Visioning website, a series of public workshops are being held at various Utah County locations through the third week of February. Time and place details for the meetings can be found at utahvalleyvisioning.org.

Bruening said the 18-month effort will occur in three phases that will include about six months devoted to outreach and information gathering, six months to assemble desired outcomes or scenarios, and a final six months to zero in on a consensus plan.