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Salt Lake County, cities at odds over West Bench future

Land between 6300 West and 8500 West and 12400 South and 13100 South in unincorporated Salt Lake County, foreground, that is proposed for the Olympia Hills development on Monday, March 11, 2019. Salt Lake County leaders have their eyes set on about 32,000 acres of undeveloped land in the county's west side, also known as the Oquirrh View area. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

HERRIMAN — Salt Lake County leaders are eyeing 32,000 undeveloped acres on the west side of the county, while leaders in the cities nearest that West Bench land say they want more research.

The Deseret News reports county leaders recently wrapped up a two-year study of the West Bench area, known as Oquirrh View, as part of the county’s master plan for future growth and demand.

The study showed some 135,500 currently live in southwest Salt Lake County, accounting for about 15% of the entire state’s growth and 57% of Salt Lake County’s growth since the year 2000. It also found about 81% of the area’s residents work outside of that area, contributing to gridlock and stress on roads that have not kept up with the growth.

But mayors from communities in southwest Salt Lake County, including Herriman, Riverton, Bluffdale, and West and South Jordan, say they have been feeling increasingly ignored and plan to do their own study.

This comes after the controversial proposal, and veto, of the Olympia Hills development, which would have turned 930 acres into 8,800 units of housing. The project, which was tied to a transportation sales tax hike last year, led to some of the cities’ leaders accusing the county of ignoring the west side.

One reason they want to conduct their own study is that just 6,000 acres of the 32,000 currently undeveloped are in unincorporated areas; the rest are within the boundaries of those cities.

One of the biggest issues that any new development will face, whether under the county’s study or the cities’ study, is the availability of water.

“The overwhelming fact is water is available in the future, it’s just going to be incredibly expensive,” Jake Young, the planning program manager for Salt Lake County told the County Council last week, as reported by the Deseret News. “Conservation is going to be more important than ever.”