TOOELE (ABC4) – It’s no secret that Utah is growing, and expansion is no longer limited to large metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City. More remote areas like Tooele County are also following suit. According to Jared Stewart, Economic Development Coordinator for the Town of Tooele, the area has experienced immense growth in recent years.
âIn recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of building permits for residential and commercial businesses,â he says. âYou can certainly see that there is an increase in growth and that it is accelerating in Tooele. “
According to Stephanie Bothell, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who has lived and worked in Tooele for the past 20 years, this growth is a counterweight to the housing boom in Salt Lake City. Because home buyers – especially first-time buyers or looking to expand into a larger residence – see their prices coming out of the Salt Lake market, they are turning to Tooele as a more affordable option.
âThe valley of Salt Lake is surrounded on both sides by mountains, and we push both sides of these mountains. We have to go further to find houses, and Tooele has always had lower house prices than on the other side of the Oquirrhs in the Salt Lake Valley, âshe says.
Earlier this month, ABC4.com announced the grand opening of a new 86-acre development – called Lexington Greens – in Tooele. Residents of Tooele and surrounding communities in Utah have expressed concern over the new growth, especially anticipating the effects on infrastructure, quality of life and already scarce water resources.
Tooele is a town of just over 34,000 people, and there is currently only one road to get there, Utah State Highway 36.
Bothell says that – while there are impact fees that encourage developers to fund some of the new infrastructure needed to serve a growing region – in most cases, some parts of the transportation framework come later.
âWe’re not going to ask UDOT to build more roads until we have more roofs,â says Bothell.
But according to Stewart, the Utah Department of Transportation has just completed the first phase of a three-phase project that will hopefully provide an alternate route in and out of Tooele. The new road is called the Midvalley Highway. After the completion of the first phase, the route creates a new exit on I-80 between the Tooele and Grantsville exits. Bothell hopes the Midvalley Freeway will help avoid traffic jams on Hwy 36.
Another way For Tooele to reduce traffic is to create long-term, career-oriented jobs in the area so residents don’t have to commute between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake City every day. According to Stewart, three big companies – Carvana, Plastic Ingenuity and KCC International – have claimed the area and plan to provide hundreds of jobs for residents.
Another concern expressed by locals is the lack of water resources in the region. Tooele is self-sufficient when it comes to water resources, which means they depend on the area’s wells. Although the new Lexington Greens Development has secured its water rights – which have been carefully vetted by city officials and the state water engineer – and water is no longer an issue now, even with the expected growth, both Stewart and Bothell say it will be a concern going forward.
âAt some point, water will be a problem,â says Bothell. “Water is a finite resource, and especially in times of drought like the one we experience when our aquifers fail to replenish, this starts to become a problem.”
Tooele officials are looking to the future to find solutions to the lack of water. Although Stewart says there are no confirmed solutions yet, Tooele has worked with other communities in the region to brainstorm solutions. Ideas that have been raised include drilling new wells, connecting water resources with surrounding communities, and possibly using water that will come from outside the Tooele Valley.
âI don’t know where it will come from yet; maybe it’s from the Salt Lake Valley, maybe it’s from the south of Tooele Valley, âsays Stewart. âThis is the long-term solution, bringing in water from outside the valley. You can always drill more wells, but at some point you get too many straws in the cup and that’s kind of the reality.
Besides water and traffic, residents of Tooele also worry about their quality of life as the region continues to grow. Tooele offers locals a break from the hustle and bustle of Salt Lake City, as well as access to open spaces and the opportunity to own more land. Even with the growth, however, Stewart says the city is investing heavily in the development and maintenance of parks, trails and open spaces. The city has even obtained more than $ 300,000 in funding for such projects.
âIt’s something that we really enjoy here as well, is making sure that as we grow up we try to maintain that small town feel,â said Stewart.
Yet Toolele’s growth means that things will change. Lexington Greens Development, which will have more than 630 new homes, has just started the construction process. And if state trends are to be believed, the area will only continue to grow.