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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Rural Developer In Boulder, Utah Hopes To Help Young People Stay With Affordable Land

Photo of a grassy landscape.
Lexi Peery
Developers Caroline and Tom Hoyt have proposed a development off of Burr Trail in Boulder, Utah that would put small lots at one end of the meadow and leave the rest open space.

Across Utah, homes and lots are expensive, and that’s pushing some young people to continually rent. That’s the case in Boulder, Utah, and one couple is trying to change that. 

Around 250 people live in the small town situated on the scenic State Route 12, which runs through south Central Utah and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Caroline and Tom Hoyt have been in Boulder for more than two-and-a-half decades, and they’ve watched some people move away because of the cost of living there. 

“There are no young people and working class people that can afford it anymore, most of the kids from the ranchers have gone to Salt Lake where there are jobs,” Caroline Hoyt said. 

The couple has submitted a plan to the town’s planning commission for a 13-lot subdivision on 27 acres of land, which would require a zone change to high density residential. They want to cluster the .5 to 1.5 acre lots at one end of the property and leave the rest of it as open space.

Sam Van Wetter has lived in Boulder seasonally for a few years, but wants to own a home in town. The 26-year-old has been watching for land to go on the market, but he can’t afford the larger lots that go for sale.

Van Wetter said he loves the rural, small town lifestyle. He and a few other residents have already told the Hoyts they’re interested in buying land from them. He said the development would give him and others the chance to stick around.

“We’re doers and we’re builders and it’s important for us to have personal stake and personal investment in this place that already feels like home,” Van Wetter said. 

Not everyone in town wants the high density neighborhood, though. A few people have expressed concerns about traffic, changing views and what will happen to the town’s water shares. 

Danny Wall, the director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at the University of Utah, said a “not in my backyard” mentality is common for new developments, especially in small towns. 

But he said rural economies are dying and some people are beginning to realize if they want their kids or grandkids to be able to stay in an area, there needs to be more affordable places to live.

“People need to have a reason and they need to feel like what they’re losing is less than what they’d be gaining if they allow the growth to happen,” Wall said. “It’s going to take a shift in mentality and people are going to have to open their mind to a changing environment and a changing economy.”

The Hoyts believe growth is inevitable in the town. They said they want to develop the land in such a way that it retains agricultural land, which is an important aspect of the community. 

“This is an absolutely magnificent gateway community. I don’t think people are going to go away,” Tom Hoyt said. “You either plan it well and do your best to preserve the things that make the town attractive to everyone, including the ones that came here years ago. Or it turns into the thing everyone complains about.”

Lexi Peery is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George. Follow Lexi on Twitter @LexiFP

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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