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South Jordan Journal

‘Think Regionally, Act Locally:’ 
Southwest Mayors 
turn crisis into long-term planning

Apr 15, 2019 11:24AM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Five of the six members of the Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council convene in South Jordan, the week after the completion of the 2019 legislative session. Seated, left to right are: Herriman City Councilman/Mayor Pro Tempore Jared Henderson, West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding, South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey, Bluffdale Mayor Derk Timothy, and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. Not pictured is the sixth member of the group, Copperton Metro Township Council Chair Sean Clayton. (Photo Courtesy Rachael Van Cleave/South Jordan City)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

This past summer, the high-density Olympia Hills development proposal outraged Herriman residents. They were concerned about additional stress on already overburdened transit corridors and a host of other concerns.

Mayors of Riverton, West Jordan, Herriman and Copperton Township, joined in an 11th-hour discussion of the impact of the proposed development. They vetted concerns, shared data and issued a joint press release, beseeching the Salt Lake County Council to not approve the developer’s request for zoning changes to allow for the high-density development.

As is the case in a solutions-oriented, optimistic point of view, the problem served as a springboard for solutions, among them, greater synergy among the mayors and the communities they represent.

“Southwest Quadrant” has become a newly-branded aspect of the Salt Lake Metropolitan area and “Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council” has emerged as a voice in regional planning.  

“If you never look at where a community is going in total, you may end up in a place you don’t want to be,” said Ted Knowlton, deputy director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) and president of the Utah Chapter of the American Planning Association. “That’s why the local governments are coming together—to strategically determine how to shape that future.”

Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council and its caucus

The communities of Bluffdale and South Jordan are also among those represented on the Southwest Mayors Caucus, bringing the total of communities represented to six

According to Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, synergies among the communities is an immediate outcome.

Staggs indicated that throughout the 45 days of the Utah Legislature, the group of mayors met every Monday with legislators that represent their communities. “That had never happened before,” Staggs said. 

Now that the legislative session has concluded, the mayors are continuing with their newfound glue, having convened as a group the first Thursday after the end of the legislative session.

Historic synergy

“This is unprecedented, as historically, there has not been a group consisting of mayors representing this many cities, working together for the greater regional good,” observed South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey.

Cameron Diehl, executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT), agrees with Ramsey.

“This certainly is a historic moment for the Southwest Valley,” he said. “They’re engaged at a very productive level. They are taking things to the next level.”

Ramsey noted the mayoral synergies may have benefitted by the fact that five of the six mayors were completely new to their positions 16 months ago. Such newness and fresh perspectives can unlock unique strategies and tactics.

Among those unique ideas include the Southwest Quadrant Mayors Council’s (SQMC) decision to raise $250,000 to develop a shared growth strategy for the region. The mayors have pooled resources to apply for funding from Salt Lake County and from the WFRC.

The work is paying off—literally. The SQMC has already been awarded $100,000 by county leaders to conduct transportation studies. Results of the $125,000 grant request from WFRC were not available at press time. However, the communities indicate they have already committed an additional $25,000 from their own coffers. 

“We want to think regionally and act locally, and we support legislation that encourages wise comprehensive planning measures, while still allowing cities the flexibility to determine the way we grow,” said Ramsey.

Southwest Quadrant: building the brand through communication

Guiding growth is essential, for regions and communities.

Long before plans for the Inland Port surfaced, planners, developers and valley residents at large have become familiar with Salt Lake’s “Northwest Quadrant” and have discussed how to balance the area’s ecological and development potential.

Word is now beginning to get out about the other side of the valley—the Southwest Quadrant. 

“I like their branding of this area,” Knowlton said. “It is positive for people to begin thinking of the Southwest Quadrant as a distinct, rich part of the overall metropolitan area.”

ULCT afforded an opportunity for additional synergy and communication. During the legislative session, ULCT decided to issue daily or even twice-a-day YouTube videos, reminding legislators and the public about what it sees as cities’ commitments to mindful infrastructure planning for Utah’s continuing, explosive growth.

The response from the Southwest Quadrant Mayors was robust. About 25 percent of the video contributions from cities across the state came from representatives of the Southwest Quadrant.

“The southwest mayors have tried to publicize their specific growth concerns,” Diehl said. “They have been successful at raising awareness.”

Thinking regionally, then communicating and acting locally in ULCT YouTube videos

West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding participated in two videos, touting the city’s transit-oriented development (TOD) co-located with the Jordan Valley Hospital, and also spoke to mixed-use development at Gardner Village, and plans for a walkable community at Jordan Landing. 

Staying true to her “Thinking Regionally and Acting Locally” theme, Ramsey specifically called out the concept of Southwest Quadrant and indicated she is “really proud of the fact that we are working hard, together, to figure that out.”

Herriman Councilwoman Nicole Martin spoke to what she deems Herriman’s successes in providing “a spectrum” of housing types to meet resident needs. Martin’s colleague Councilman Clint Smith participated in three videos, covering everything from transportation infrastructure to trails systems for recreation.

Staggs participated in three videos, speaking to the Southwest Quadrant and to Riverton’s own growth issues. Staggs also took the lead in inking an editorial referring to the Southwest Quadrant and discussing transportation issues in a local newspaper. Other SQMC members joined in signing their names and those of their cities to the piece.

More Southwest Quadrant

Mid-last month, a modified Olympia Hills project re-emerged on elected officials’ and residents’ plates. Residents  were invited to study revived project plans and comment. This time around, the forward-thinking SQMC has proposed visioning and transportation studies in the works, to help frame decisions about that and other developments.

To watch videos from the Southwest Quadrant and other areas across the state, check out the ULCT’s YouTube channel.