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The City Journals

‘We must get this right’ - Municipal mayors prioritize unprecedented regional coordination

Jun 19, 2019 04:35PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

The Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council’s commitment to a “Shared Vision and Growth Strategy” seeks to douse “unconstructive controversy” in developing a strategic growth plan through 2050. Here, SWQ mayors Trent Staggs of Riverton and Dawn Ramsey of South Jordan flank Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson during the South Valley segment of her five-county tour in April and May. (Salt Lake County)


By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

The scores are in, and the tabulations are done.

But the Southwest Quadrant (SWQ) Mayors Council is not yet ready to release the results of its quest to name an urban-planning partner help manage its three-pronged approach to deliver a “Shared Vision and Growth Strategy” for the Salt Lake Valley’s SWQ.

In need of a palatable code name, for broader public conversation, The Shared Vision and Growth Strategy will address land use, economic development and transportation infrastructure changes across participating communities and collectively target “a high quality of life,” with a 2050 outlook, the precise timeframe by which the state is set to double its population.

The timeline is brisk—what at least one of the SWQ mayors says is as short as one year.

The study will bridge the gap between the high-level vision “forest” and municipal general-plan and ordinance “trees.”

It also continues to empower participating communities with local decision-making, paired with the ability for community leaders to “wear two hats”—representing both their SWQ aspirational contributions and their municipal day-job, elected responsibilities.

Essentially, it is crystallizing the phrase South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey has begun to brand: “Think regionally, act locally.”

‘We must get this right’

“As the only area of the valley with much vacant land left, we must get this right,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey’s comments are reminiscent of what Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson told City Journals last month, with regards to the rebooted, high-density Olympia Hills projects, which, if it is to advance to fruition, must now reapply and retrace assumed improved steps to garnering SLCO County approval. 

Wilson’s comment was: “We cannot move forward with wasting a single acre.”

Provided with a little more than $250,000 in financing to engage its study, SWQ Mayors is moving swiftly to initiate a process that will begin with analysis, then move to a vision, and, ultimately, result in what the mayoral cadre hopes is a “shared growth strategy’ to proactively guide long-term development.

‘What is the ‘Southwest Quadrant?’ What is the ‘SWQ Mayors Council?’

SWQ comprises land from six municipalities—Bluffdale, Copperton, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and Riverton—and significant, undeveloped parcels in the in Unincorporated Salt Lake County. 

Just like the “Northwest Quadrant,” the “Southwest Quadrant” is a key area of SLCO and one facing intense development considerations.

“The name of the area isn’t as important as [the concept of] our communities working together with a shared vision and resources,” said SLCO Mayor Jenny Wilson.  

Wilson also rightly reminds: “The Southwest Quadrant includes a large part of unincorporated SLCO. It is important for SLCO to represent the unincorporated area and have a seat at the table as their future is discussed.”

The six SWQ municipalities represent 100 square miles of land and nearly 300,000 residents. Unincorporated SLCO parcels and the residents who reside there add to those figures.

‘Who are the constituents on the ‘Shared Vision and Growth Strategy?’

When mayors, metropolitan planning organizations and media refer to the “Shared Vision and Growth Strategy,” who are the players involved in that?

A pool of contractors was invited to bid on a nine-page proposal. Four proposals were submitted. Proposals have been evaluated by more than 40 municipal and metropolitan planning organization representatives on two key metrics: approach and staff.

Key project contributors include, as Wilson asserted, SLCO Regional Planning and Transportation, the Utah Department of Transportation, and the Utah Transit Authority. Major stakeholders will include utilities, school districts and major property owners.

“SLCO is a huge player in this effort,” said West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding. “We will be using the Oquirrh View Study that was just completed by the County.”


The embracing of Salt Lake County as a key constituent from Ramsey and Riding is a much different tenor than was exhibited mid-March by one of the SWQ Mayors Council representatives, Herriman Councilman/Mayor Protempore Jared Henderson.

Attending a public-engagement session for the proposed redraft of the once-vetoed Olympia Hills project at Herriman’s Bastian Elementary in April, Henderson depicted funds that had been granted for the SWQ vision and growth strategy as monies that had been committed with “no strings attached,” yet represented the County as attempting to inappropriately wedge its way into the process.

“Salt Lake County is clearly a stakeholder,” quipped a source with a metropolitan planning organization, a few days after learning of Henderson’s comments.

“The transportation crisis in the Southwest of SLCO is one of the top priorities of the Southwest Mayors,” Henderson told City Journals. The crisis is most relevant to Herriman, he said, where it is a case of “We need some, before we can get more.” 

Concerned Herriman residents collected a reported 16,000-plus signatures of disapproval regarding the first Olympia Hills project proposal. 

“Herriman residents, in particular, will be the most effected by Olympia Hills,” Henderson added. “The compounding effect on our residents’ daily quality of life will be immense, and they are, justifiably, very concerned that there is no infrastructure plan to support it.”

“Everyone who wants to weigh in will have the opportunity, including residents, land owners, developers, utility companies, the school district, business owners, municipalities, the county and anyone else associated with our Southwest Quadrant of the Salt Lake Valley,” Ramsey said.

It is a case of SWQ mayors now embracing the mantra of their newly congealed commitment to douse what is deemed “unproductive controversy” in the “Shared Vision and Growth” strategy.