Residents are on both sides of the fence as Utah City springs up in booming Vineyard
A 700-acre development in Utah County promises to be a community based around sustainability and walkability.
“We have some decent transit-adjacent developments in Utah, but nothing that was kind of planned all around the station that was already existing,” said Utah City Managing Partner Nate Hutchinson. “That's kind of the opportunity that we have.”
The project has already broken ground on its first 450 housing units and has plans to offer 3 million square feet of commercial and office space and over 50 acres of community open space. The Huntsman Cancer Institute also plans to build a new facility on the land.
Not everyone is so excited, however. Some locals think Utah City could be too much, too fast for the growing area.
“I haven't seen enough focus on a responsibility with water availability and with commute time and things like that,” said kindergarten teacher and Vineyard resident Laurie Clark. “I don't feel like we have the roads to sustain it.”
Clark is not alone in her worry. A local newspaper story announcing the project drew almost 1,000 social media comments. Others expressed concerns over the project's impacts on traffic and overall scope.
“It just feels like there's this explosive expansion happening everywhere to where it used to feel like a little more open, a little more nature, a little less congested and now it just feels claustrophobic,” said Clark.
Vineyard is one of the fastest growing municipalities in the state. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the city’s population grew from 139 in 2010 to 14,535 in 2022.
Despite the concerns, local officials say there will be plenty of opportunities for the public to weigh in as the project progresses.
“Every plat that's submitted [to the city] will be reviewed by our planning team to make sure it's compliant with our zoning codes,” said Vineyard City Manager Ezra Nair. “The planning commission will have lots of opportunities to approve things so people can attend those meetings and provide their input.”
Even so, the builders of Utah City still have a lot of entitled uses on the property they own.
“As long as they're fulfilling those and the requirements that have been set in the building code, we mainly just go in, review and make sure they're hitting all their different requirements,” Nair said.
In Clark’s eyes, the developers and the city need to think about more than just following building code.
“I wish they would really take the long term consequences into account,” said Clark. “The water rights, the types of communities that they want to build and the culture that they're inviting by the type of housing they're making.”
The project is part of a push by state leaders to incentivize development around public transit through what’s called a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone. HTRZs are a financial tool local governments can use to help finance projects like affordable housing and parking infrastructure.
For Hutchinson’s part, the project’s large scope — “We're building a city from scratch, a new downtown for the county,” he noted — means the group plans to continue dialogue with the community throughout the length of the project.
“We understand the hesitation of those that maybe are hesitant to be fully supportive of the project. But I think we're really optimistic that as they start to visit the project, that they'll share the same feeling and vision that we do over time.”
Hutchinson said the full build out of Utah City could be complete in the next 10 years.