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Soter: Orem voters, say no to Proposition 5

October 13, 2018

Proposition 5, which Orem City residents will vote on in the next few weeks has me deeply concerned.

Proposition 5 is a citizen-lead effort to have Orem voters say “No” to the City Council’s decision to make a very controversial zone change. The proposed zone change would allow high-density apartments with more than 1,600 tenants on a very specific piece of single-family residential property.

I think the zone change is a bad idea, which is why I am voting against Proposition 5, and urge you to do the same. Here’s why.

A group of private developers purchased an entire neighborhood adjacent to UVU, right across the street from Lakeridge Junior High School. Palos Verdes was a very nice, well-established group of 30 homes.

The developers then bulldozed the homes, without first seeking approval from Orem city for the zone change that would be required for the 450 apartments the developers want to build on the property.

My first objection is that buying, then destroying, an entire neighborhood before first securing the necessary zone change seems absolutely wrong. It may be lawful. But it’s extraordinarily cheeky and presumptive to assume that Orem would grant — after the fact — a zone change to convert the single-family neighborhood to very high-density apartments.

That seems like a case of, “We’ll do what we want now, then get permission later.”

My second objection is that the Orem City Council bought into it.

The council granted the zone change in spite of huge objections from area neighbors, and an initial recommendation against the change by the Orem Planning Commission (a group of citizen volunteers who make recommendations to the City Council). Thank you, Brent Sumner and Debby Lauret, the two council members who voted against the zone change.

My third objection is that by allowing more than 1,200 more student cars (plus guest cars) to be immediately across the street from Lakeridge Junior High School is going to create a huge increase in traffic near the junior high. That’s a danger to young students and one more traffic snarl for Orem, this one permanent. Some claim the apartments will decrease traffic. I have trouble imagining how 1,200 added cars (plus guests’ cars) will create less traffic.

There are more reasons why you and I ought to deny this zone change. You can read them at http://www.LetOremVote.com.

I support UVU and its growth. I’ve taught there, in multiple capacities. I think, however, that a far better solution for UVU student housing would be for UVU to continue its expansion where demand for the university is taking place — perhaps north or south Utah County. Begin taking the school to the students, not the students to the school. Multiple campuses have worked well in many states; think UCLA, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, etc.

The Orem campus has grown to 37,000 students, and projects nearly 50,000 in the next seven years. Good sense says that southwest Orem has absorbed nearly as much growth as it’s able. When we start to demolish the city’s attractive, single-family neighborhoods, it’s time to re-think.

I’ve developed several apartment complexes. So you might accuse me of being the “pot calling the kettle black.” I consider my role as an Orem citizen, interested in protecting the best interests of our neighborhoods, a much higher priority than my developer interests, however.

I have several friends on the Orem City Council, and in UVU’s administration. I visited with them individually prior to their voting for the zone change. I’m baffled at their thought process. To those friends, I apologize for opposing your opinion. My best thinking says I’ve got to speak up, however. The zone change is wrong.

A few months ago, I was solidly in favor of this apartment development. Deeper thought tells me it’s a bad idea.

Orem voters, please say “No” to Proposition 5. There are far better ways to handle UVU’s growth.

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