A friend and I were walking out of the gym this morning, instigating small talk as is customary. Often these morning conversations are sports-oriented as we vent frustration over losses or celebrate unforeseen victories. Today was slightly different, as the discussion veered into political happenings of our day.
The topics caused us to delay standing next to our cars to finish longer than usual discussion. One subject we visited about was the recent approval of the Olympia Hills Development in the southwest area of Salt Lake County. Oddly, before coming to the gym, I had read the KSL report, “Opponents of Olympia Hills Development kick-off referendum effort,” so I mentioned my feelings regarding these actions.
I began by suggesting that it is crazy to me that “educated” people fall into mob rule, buying into facts that are so far from the truth that we mind as well have them change subjects. I went on to say a person named Lorin Palmer, who is leading the effort, was quoted as saying, “We are not against development. We are not against high-density development. … We also support land-use decisions being made at the local level” with the auditorium erupting in cheers of support. My rhetorical question was, do you think Palmer even knows what he said? Their referendum is nothing more than the antithesis of his statement.
While I don’t know all the facts of the new development, I know enough to suggest these angry persons are merely acting on emotions that carry no real value if they sat back and thought about their antagonism. What is most glaring is that to a person, I would bet each individual is living in residence today that they are arguing against for our future residents. That not too long ago, a small group of similar-minded people hoped that there would be no more growth in the area where they now live. Yet here they are, and now that they enjoy the benefits derived from prior strong elected leadership—who voted against the minority then—they now want the doors closed to others.
We are in a critical housing crisis, with home purchases being unattainable for many of our residents today. Affordability isn’t discriminatory as it is affecting all ages of our citizenry. We are living in historical times where home builders are unable to meet the market demands. The formation of family units (natural and in migration) has outpaced housing creation pushing home prices out of reach for many.
My comments included how we, as a society, value homeownership and that the benefits are profound and long lasting attributes of healthy communities. That employers seek areas where their employees can purchase homes, knowing the workforce is more stable, harder working, and inclined to contribute to the local area. Our economic growth and stability can only be maintained when citizens who desire can attain their dream of ownership or can find a meaningful rental within their budget.
I then fell back on the idea that we, as parents and grandparents, want our families to be able to live in our communities and enjoy well-paying jobs. The only way to accomplish this is to meet the market demand as planned by long term visioning. Great minds sit down and design future growth because we care about our standard of living; we care about our environment and have limited resources to work with in building our communities.
Olympia Hills addresses all these needs by creating walk, work, and play areas limiting traffic, and utilizing innovation. You would think in listening to the mob that tens of thousands of people will show up tomorrow crowding streets and filling public spaces. The timeline for development, which assumes a healthy and robust economy, is that the phasing will take us into and beyond 2037. Seventeen years! The traffic studies show that long term planning reduces traffic congestion through the construction of new highway and roadway systems.
It must be noted the developer committed that a minimum of ten percent of the new housing will be built for residents earning less than the area median income and that five percent will be built to the average. These are our workforce residents, our children, and grandchildren as they start in life’s adventure wanting to live where they grew up.
My friend and I separated with the last words I heard being; we are all suckers. People, please, don’t buy into the madness; Olympia Hills will stand out as a meaningful addition to our valley one day. Just as many other critical areas are today that once were thought to be horrible plans. We receive national recognition for our long term planning for good reason.
Lastly, and not part of my conversation, I want to give a shout out to Mayor Wilson, and those council members Shireen Ghorbani, Jim Bradley, Arlyn Bradshaw, Michael Jensen, Ann Granato, and Max Burdick. These effective and brave leaders fearlessly stood against a minority (KSL reports hundreds) of angry vocal residents in fulfilling their responsibility to the future of our communities. The majority needs to take a stand against these efforts, which are aggrandized in social media and through biased self-centered dialog.
PS Mr. Palmer lives in a community built in Herriman in 2013, backing a major street leading into the new area. Guess his family is fortunate men like him have been unsuccessful in years past.