Utah County leaders tackle impending growth with launch of Valley Visioning project
Business, education and government leaders gathered Wednesday afternoon for the first step of planning for Utah County’s future.
Utah County is expected to rival Salt Lake County in population within the next 45 years, and the combined associations of Utah Valley chambers hosted the first of a series of Valley Visioning events aimed to create a cohesive community plan for that growth.
Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said this visioning process is vital to sustainable growth for the county. In prior decades, valley growth was accidental, he said, because the county had an abundance of land. Recently, that changed. The county only has an estimated 240,000 developable lands left, all which is quickly being gobbled up all across the county. Smart planning for the remaining land is crucial.
“Our margin of error has disappeared,” Hale said, adding that local legislators now need to set aside former ideologies and start thinking about the future of this valley.
“We need to talk about how we meet this growth head on,” he said.
Similar to Envision Utah’s visioning efforts for the Point of the Mountain, the Valley Visioning process will occur in three phases over the next 18 months. This first series consists of “listening” workshops, where Envision Utah is working with the valley chambers to survey residents and workers in the valley. Phase two of the process will be to model scenarios for valley growth, and phase three will be to develop a cohesive vision with proposed scenarios.
The hope is to make the valley a place for the valley’s children and grandchildren to live, work and play.
To start this process, Robert Grow, CEO of Envision Utah, polled the community decision-makers gathered at Utah Valley University Wednesday on their priorities, recording their answers and displaying the results in real time. During this polling, those surveyed listed improving transportation, education, housing affordability and building live/work/play communities as the top outcomes for Utah County’s future.
The bulk of the meeting was spent allowing those gathered to physically create a vision for the valley on huge county maps laid out in the center of each table. Table members worked together to identify and lay out growth options that included metro centers, industrial spaces, transit and transportation options, housing areas and other needs all across the valley, from Lehi to Nephi and Provo to Eagle Mountain. Interestingly, many tables drew in a bridge across Utah Lake as part of that vision.
Cameron Martin, UVU vice president of University Relations and chair of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, explained that Wednesday’s event focused on the corporate community leaders, or the “grasstops.” In January and February, this same visioning event will be taken to the community members — the hidden voices, or the “grassroots” people.
“These are meetings so we can gather input, and leverage our strengths to the betterment of our community, so we can make informed decisions to address unmet needs and position us for a prosperous future,” Martin said.
Martin and fellow Valley Visioning organizers hope this series of meetings and discussions will build a coalition between cities, businesses and community members, and establish priority items the county can build and take action on.
“We are better together when we plan together, when we coordinate together,” Martin said.
All residents in the valley are invited to be a part of this process. For more information about upcoming events, or share thoughts on the future of the county, visit https://utahvalleyvisioning.org.