Skip to main content

The City Journals

Citizen group encourages Salt Lake County to stay out of Olympia Hills discussions

Jul 11, 2019 09:26AM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Olympia Hills developer Doug Young (left) has been accused of hyperbole on even the revised Olympia Hills 2.0 development. (Jennifer J. Johnson/City Journals)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Just three days after the Salt Lake County Council received the modified application for the high-density, Southwest Quadrant “Olympia Hills 2.0” development, the citizen group Utah for Responsible Growth fired off a YouTube video—fed by social media posts—about the proposed development itself, the role of Salt Lake County and municipalities, and residents’ critical need to be informed and engaged.

The video asks Salt Lake County to “stay out” of development discussions on the project and leave the coordination work to the cities comprising the Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council, most specifically, Herriman and South Jordan. At press time the video had almost 950 views and was steadily climbing in reach. The group itself shows about 200 members on its Facebook page.

The group, at its nucleus, is comprised of the Herriman grassroots team that garnered nearly 14,000 signatures protesting the first-round of the Olympia Hills project last summer. A “2.0” version of that team is now making a bold commitment to become more deeply data-driven in its inquiry of that project, to connect even more closely with the mayors and other municipalities of the Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council. All while simultaneously brandishing their message of citizens first, developers and state legislature second, regarding responsible growth throughout Utah.

Olympia Hills 2.0 status and background

Developer Doug Young filed a revised application for Olympia Hills Tuesday, July 2. The modified proposal requests a zoning change to enable development of a high-density, live-work-play planned community on a 931 acre parcel of land in about the farthest South-by-Southwest area of Salt Lake County’s Southwest Quadrant.

After clearing the Salt Lake County Council in a 7-1 vote last summer, the first version of the project was vetoed by then-County Mayor Ben McAdams. After hosting two open-house sessions this spring and receiving instructions to revisit public concerns about traffic, infrastructure, housing types and costs, a lack of certainty about anchor tenants, and other matters, and then refiling a revised proposal this past Monday, the second version of the project is now up for consideration by the County.

‘Olympia Hills – The True Story,’ according to URG

Late on July 5 Utah for Responsible Growth posted a 13-minute 15-second YouTube video “Olympia Hills 2.0 – The True Story.”

While lead by Herriman residents who were responsible for the petition campaigns from last year, the group emphasizes it comprises not just Southwest Quadrant communities, but representatives from elsewhere throughout Salt Lake County and even Tooele, Utah, and Weber counties. Among their number is a representative of the recently failed initiative in Cottonwood Heights to challenge that city council’s zoning change to allow for expanded density on a high-density project by Ivory Homes in the community.
The video communicates what Utah for Responsible Growth views as its grand-scale mission to be  “trying to create affordable housing through balance in our communities” while its current focus is on “voter beware” about what Olympia Hills means to SWQ communities on a micro-scale.

The YouTube video—presented in a side-by-side talking head/Powerpoint presentation with Herriman resident and professional grassroots organizer Lorin Palmer—states its goal is to answer the question “What Is Olympia Hills?”

This will ‘affect everyone along the west bench’  

“Unsmart planning” is the overall perspective. The video refers to Olympia Hills’s current density—reduced by one third of the original proposal—as still being “outrageous.” The vision to recruit behemoth mega-companies as anchor tenants of the project are deemed “pie in the sky.” The project, according to URG, will “affect everyone along the west bench.”

The group, who are admitted “non-planning experts,” according to URG spokesman Justin Swain, state they estimate $100 million in infrastructure costs for the current project on the table.

The video also makes a statement about Herriman city officials’ position on not allowing high density, which does not square with information the City Journals received from Herriman Mayor Protempore Jared Henderson in mid-June.

In a June 18 email to the City Journals, Henderson said: “I am not aware of any official application to consider or take a position on. In general, what we have told this land owner and others is that we will consider any proposal that includes a comprehensive plan with the requisite supporting infrastructure.”

Palmer states that developer Young has elected to work with the County versus a municipality like Herriman or South Jordan, supposedly quoting Young as saying the county is “referendum-proof,” meaning it would be less likely for residents voting down the project’s request for zoning changes to move forward with development.

Young has indicated that Olympia Hills is a 30-year project, which is not addressed in the video.

Salt Lake County being shown the door

“We encourage Salt Lake County to stay out of the development game,” Palmer states about 10 minutes into the video.

Palmer indicated SWQ municipalities are best situated to develop the planning and density for this area. “We just believe that this is such a critical area that it needs to be taken care of locally…to find something that fits in this community.”

Palmer makes a comment echoed by previous observations from an official working for a metropolitan planning organization wishing to remain unidentified—that developer Young is seeking to play the County against cities like Herriman and South Jordan against each other, in order to ultimately secure the most profitable—and likely, the highest-density project possible.

Unified only in being tight-lipped

Declining to comment about the video itself or the resident group, County Mayor Jenny Wilson last month strongly asserted Salt Lake County’s rightful seat at the table for Olympia Hills. She told the City Journals: “The Southwest Quadrant includes a large part of unincorporated Salt Lake County. It is important for Salt Lake County to represent the unincorporated area and have a seat at the table as their future is discussed.”

She added she feels the county’s efforts are in lockstep with those of the municipal mayors comprising the SWQ Mayors Council. “I have had many conversations with the mayors in these areas and feel that we all have common goals and objectives.”

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, a critic of the County’s management of the first Olympia Hills project and the County’s lack of attention to the Southwest Quadrant, is one of two individuals Palmer reported as having been briefed on Utah for Responsible Growth’s activities. A spokesman for Staggs said the mayor had “no comment” regarding the video.

The other official Palmer indicated briefing, Herriman Mayor Pro Tempore Henderson, could not be reached for comment.

Developer Doug Young, through his public relations company, Love Communications, also declined comment.

“We’re not ‘anti’ anything,” said Swain, a Herriman resident who led the petition expressing resident displeasure with the original Olympia Hills project. In his phone interview with the City Journals, Swain added, “We recognize Olympia Hills will be developed…it needs to be planned out properly.”