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Meetings starting as Orem’s State Street master plan moratorium moves into third month

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 15, 2021

Courtesy of Orem City

Orem State Street Master Plan

It has been two months since the Orem City Council voted to place a six-month moratorium on the State Street Master Plan.

The moratorium, according to some councilmembers, was used as a pause button so they could do some tweaking and refining to certain aspects of the plan. The most important being the development of multi-family unit dwellings along State Street.

“There were things that were missed that don’t make sense,” said Councilman David Spencer.

Spencer said he believes there are four issues that need to be addressed in the plan including building heights, sufficient parking, setback issues and neighborhood encroachment.

He is not only concerned about housing, but what businesses will be required to do to meet the State Street design.

Courtesy Orem city

A map shows the approximate locations of the five districts along State Street as part of the State Street Master Plan.

While it appears not much discussion has happened thus far, one-on-one meetings have been set with councilmembers and staff to discuss their individual ideas about what refining needs to be done in the plan.

“I want to polish it, but I’m not interested in changing it and I’m not interested in throwing the plan out altogether,” said Councilwoman Debby Lauret. “I anticipate there will also be a public process.”

Lauret said a team of consultants had been hired to help with the original master plan and hopes that professionals will be asked to look again at the concerns of the council and residents.

“We wanted to take a pause and look at the five districts to see if they are meeting the needs of residents and the city goals,” said Mayor Richard Brunst.

One of the biggest concerns, and possible unintended consequences, is if Orem does not comply with housing requests from the state then the Legislature would have the power to allow high density housing in family neighborhoods.

SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

Cars wait at a traffic signal at the intersection of 800 South and State Street in Orem on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.

Brunst indicated that the council has turned down a number of requests for high-density building in neighborhoods and that is the reason they have put it along State Street.

One of the benefits to having multi-unit housing on State Street is the proximity to mass transit in the present and the future rapid transit expected along the corridor.

Chad Eccles, transit program manager for Mountainlands Association of Governments, said the long range plans show that the best option will be rapid transit using articulated electric buses from Payson to Lehi. Orem’s State Street is the next phase of the plan.

So far, they have done a corridor planning study and money has been set aside to begin the Environmental Impact Study soon. They will then work to get federal grants for the project, according to Eccles.

“We want to keep the momentum going,” he said. “This will go faster than the UVX route.”

Eccles added that much had been done during the phase one BRT program for the second phase, which includes Orem’s State Street.

While the Utah Department of Transportation is the lead on the State Street project, Eccles believes the Orem portion of phase two could be completed by 2030 — nine years from now.

Brunst said he is looking at the State Street plan in two parts, housing and business. He mentioned the numbers of new businesses that have selected State Street as the place to be from Trader Joe’s in the central business district to Ace Hardware in the north Orem district.

“Business plans are coming to pass while following the State Street Master Plan,” Brunst said. “We are moving ahead according to plan.”

Brunst invites people to take a step back and look at what the city has been trying to do, saying, “It’s working.”

There has been some confusion during the current election and campaign season regarding information being disbursed. For instance, the council has no intention of putting 20,000 people in apartments on State Street.

According to the 2020 Census, Orem grew 11% in the past decade and is currently at a population of 98,000. If the city continued in that pattern it would have 10,780 new residents by the 2030s Census. By 2040, it would add another 11,965 residents. Not all would be renting or living in apartments.

The city council is working with the long term planners and other staff to make sure the growth is handled correctly.

For some, that rate may not be acceptable. Councilman Spencer feels it is time to have other cities start taking on some of the housing that Orem and Provo have.

“Right now, we have 42% living in multi-family unit dwellings,” Spencer said. “Everybody needs to take their fair share.”

For clarification, the 42% includes a variety of rental units not just multi-family unit dwellings, it includes town homes, single-family home rentals and more.

Spencer points to cities from Springville and Lindon to Alpine, Highland and Mapleton as communities that need to step up and offer affordable housing and apartment dwellings.

For the next four months, Spencer and the council will focus on Orem, tweaking the State Street Master plan and taking it to the residents to make sure their desires are heard on the matter.

The moratorium will end the first week of February. At that time, the city will have installed a new mayor and at least one new councilmember. They will then vote on the changes to be implemented in the State Street Master Plan.

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