An article published October 18 in the Deseret News addresses the impact that Utah County growth will have over the next 50 years. As stated in the article by Pam Perlich, “These changes are ongoing, irreversible, cumulative, and consequential.” The growth is happening, whether we like it or not. But what we can do is prepare for it and properly manage it.
I want to reassure residents that we are preparing for the growth that is ahead of us. We are planning to update the General Plan (the primary planning document for the city) in the next year. We also have master plans for transportation, water, sewer, trails, parks, and infrastructure which guide our budgetary and planning decisions. We frequently review and update those plans.
I would like to specifically address a number of challenges that we are currently planning to address as we continue to grow: transportation, air pollution, affordable housing, public safety, agricultural land, and infrastructure development.
We have been working closely with UDOT, Utah County, Mountainland Association of Governments, and our neighboring communities for longer than 8 years to develop transportation infrastructure in our community. We are about to see the fruits of those labors with the I-15 Tech Corridor (which went through many revisions at the recommendation of Lehi staff and elected officials), 1200 West, and east and west Main Street. Each of these projects are being paid for mostly through funding from the county and the state. We will continue to prioritize our traffic needs and identify projects and funding to meet the needs of our growing city. We are also exploring a bike sharing program and working with UTA to improve public transportation.
Air pollution is and always has been a problem for the Wasatch Front. We want to think innovatively about how to address this issue. One idea is to bring electric charging stations to Lehi to encourage electric vehicles. We are currently exploring this option. We are also working with UTA to improve bus transportation and bring light rail to Utah County. We hope to see these advancements in the next 5-10 years. Finally, I want to work with our local companies to encourage their employees to participate in rideshare programs. The fewer cars on our road, the better our air and transportation will be.
Housing Affordability is on everyone’s mind. Home prices continue to rise and it is getting harder for young families and retirees to live in our community. As you know, we have been talking about affordability options. Our planning department is currently researching tiny homes, accessory apartments, detached apartments, and transit oriented developments (TOD) that will provide affordable options. TODs are high-density developments that are located near public transportation hubs and include shopping and employment options. We hope to implement changes to our code to allow some of these options in the near future.
We are about to open Fire Station 83 in Traverse Mountain, which will greatly benefit our community. We are preparing for growth now by purchasing land for future fire stations. We are also planning to build an improved police department building that will better meet the needs of our growing community. We frequently review statistics from the police and fire departments to determine the need for additional law enforcement and emergency responders and plan ahead to fill those positions.
As our city grows we will continue to see large agricultural areas be developed into housing and commercial areas. We cannot limit a private property owner’s right to sell their property, but we can determine through the General Plan how that land can be developed. One thing we have done to try and preserve agricultural land is establish the VLDRA zone (very low density residential/agricultural zone). We have identified areas of the city that will allow home owners to have larger properties (1/2 acre or more) with animal and agricultural rights, preserving an agricultural feel to parts of the city.
We have a number of infrastructure projects in the works to help us for our future growth. We have been upsizing our pressurized irrigation and sewer system throughout the city. We are in the process of building a power generation facility to help us meet the peak demand of power and reduce the overall cost to provide power. We are also developing culinary and pressurized irrigation storage facilities on the west side of Lehi. Finally, we are planning the Dry Creek Lake recreational area and pressurized irrigation facility to not only provide additional recreation, but also help us provide water to our community.
We are lucky to have a number of competent professionals working for our city. Our planning, public works, engineering, and water departments are aware of the challenges ahead and are capable of implementing changes to prepare for and manage growth. Please reach out to me, our staff, or your city council members with suggestions and recommendations as we continue to work together to keep Lehi a great place to live.
Mayor Bert Wilson