SITLA ignores property rights, tells Saratoga Springs how to plan a city

A multi-family housing development in Saratoga Springs, photographed on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and Farmland Reserve, Inc. (FRI) left Saratoga Springs city leaders and staff puzzled and dumbfounded with suggestions that the city change its transportation master plan during a session last Tuesday.

Together SITLA and FRI commissioned an October 2015 report titled “Northwest Utah County Study: Socio-Economic Growth & Transportation Analysis" with consultants Robert Charles Lesser and Company, LLC (RCLCO), and Fehr and Peers and Landmark Design. 

"So we did an original study. We told our consultants to ignore our property -- don't think about Farmland Reserves' property, don't think about SITLA's property. Do what's best for the community," said Troy Herold, who works in SITLA's planning and development office. 

SITLA’s purpose is to manage and generate revenue from its more than 3 million acres of land for Utah schools. FRI is an investment arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and owns hundreds of acres in farmland in Saratoga Springs.

"SITLA and FRI, we talked as large landowners, stakeholders in the community; that we saw a need to look at the studies that were done, Mountainland Associations of Governments, of course, and see if that still made sense," Herold said.

The FRI representative refused comment. RCLCO's Taylor Mammen was the consultant who gave a large part of the nearly hour-long presentation.

SITLA has plans for development at Mid Valley in Eagle Mountain and Hidden Valley in the Saratoga Springs area. Saratoga Springs has a master plan map that has a transportation corridor cutting through its Hidden Valley, a road that SITLA doesn't want.

The study by SITLA and FRI also was critical of Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) and also of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

“They are completely ignoring land use and what property owners have the right to do,” Saratoga Springs City Councilwoman Shellie Baertsch said. 

Baertsch said some of their other recommendations were not realistic, such as when the study results were presented that the city needed to change where current transportation corridors are planned and add others.

“Why should we quite frankly have to provide the corridors for you,” Baertsch said. “Forgive me for being rude, but for me, I just don’t get where this is helping.”

The consultant told the group that MAG had not looked sufficiently at the numbers and the Fehr and Peers study was more accurate.

“The analysis was completed to support sound regional planning for the area and understand the implications of a ‘market driven’ growth scenario,” reads the report's executive summary.

“This scenario anticipates higher population but lower employment growth than currently projected by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) and Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG),” the report continues. 

“So you are essentially saying we will become the bedroom community of Eagle Mountain,” Saratoga Springs City Councilman Michael McOmber said. 

And that's something that will never happen.

Since the inception of Saratoga Springs as a municipality, its leaders have participated in MAG and has spent thousands of hours studying and planning for its city, coordinating with neighboring cities and the organization.

“We are working well as a group together,” said Baertsch, who has participated in MAG since 2008.

Cathy Allred is north Utah County reporter for the Daily Herald and can be reached at heraldextra.ca@gmail.com and followed on Facebook: North County News.

Daily Herald journalist Cathy Allred covers north Utah County news and events, and acts as a community watchdog.

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