“There’s a good reason that we, the duck clubs and the Audubon are the only ones out there,” says Larson. “It already stinks to high heaven out there. The alkaline mud stinks and the mosquitoes and deer flies will eat you alive if you give them a chance.”
The Gillmors, whose properties intersperse the area, were recognized in 1996 by then-Gov. Mike Leavitt’s Century Farm and Ranch Program. The program has been more of a memo than an award. It highlights “farm families and provides a message to the broader public of the importance of sustaining the agriculture industry in the state,” said Bob Gilliland, director of Utah State University’s Cooperative Extension Service.
“This generation is still deeply committed to continue that family tradition. It’s not just a job; it’s a way of life,” Larson says. The Century Farm designation was used, in at least one instance, to leverage the relocation of a proposed new state highway that “would have less impact on agriculture,” the program description says.
That could be important to the Gillmors, whose western lands are critical to their migratory operation. The cattle and sheep stay on the lakeshore in winter and spring, and then are trucked to the high Uintas in summer. That allows the land to rest for later grazing. Come November, they’re trucked back to the flatlands.
“What’s so important about winter range is that it’s in extraordinarily short supply,” says Larson. There is nothing comparable to it, she says, and the loss of their home winter range would simply put them out of business.
Sure, it’s conceivable that the proposed development wouldn’t adversely affect their operations, but it might not work that way in reverse. People would be navigating around big, smelly, manurecovered livestock trucks while the cattle are being moved.
idea is to mimic nature and the ways animals migrate for food and
shelter. But, the fact is that people tend to be bothered by livestock
in proximity to their homes. “Residential development and livestock
have proved not to mix very well,” Larson says.
Death of Sprawl Mall
Mankind has been known to tame difficult terrain in novel, if knotty, ways. And as “ways” go, this is not just a “greenway.” Renderings show a monolith in mid-town, heralding a new western gateway to Salt Lake City.
Geographically, it’s about half of Christensen’s council district—the nonvoting half. There are no schools there, no parks. Because of the airport’s International Center and the Salt Lake City International Airport, some 30,000 people work within the quadrant. And they get there by car.
But, wait. The plan also calls for a dedicated light-rail line—the one going from downtown to the airport will then continue through and meander around the Northwest Quadrant. Just like that. The plan says “will.” No negotiating on this point, even though TRAX lines are being held up around the valley.
TRAX is one of the unique aspects of the village, Christensen says. “We can plan development around transit as opposed to reinserting it after,” he says.
Simonsen points out that it’s hard to bring transit to new developments. Daybreak has been trying for a decade. But more importantly, transit isn’t a panacea for pollution. Best-case scenarios put 20 to 30 percent of a population on mass transit. Current trends are somewhere around 10 percent.
How would such a development impact air quality? “It appears to me simply to continue the sprawl to the west on a very large scale,” Simonsen says.
Christensen argues that driving from Tooele into the city would still be more harmful to air quality than driving from the Northwest Village, and at least there’d be light rail.
Light-rail now goes out to Sandy, with FrontRunner racing off to Ogden. “But people still drive,” says Anderson, who calls for better education on the effects of development. In scuttling what came to be called “sprawl malls,” Anderson says people are starting to understand the economics of those kinds of shopping centers—where the money goes, and what sprawl malls do to the quality of life, air pollution and the destruction of open spaces.
“Every effort should be on far more intensity within the central part of the city and to have people live close to where they go to school and where they work, and not build a sprawling suburb,” he says.
Oh, the school factor. Right now, there are none in the Northwest Quadrant. The plan anticipates some 15,000 new students needing 15 new elementary schools, eight middle schools and at least two high schools. Even though the development wouldn’t kick in until about 2030, the thought of snagging new funds for public education is almost laughable for a district struggling with student growth and shrinking resources now.
As the 2010 Legislature holds the line on funding public education, one thing is certain: it has not provided for growth.
Arsenic & Landfills
Meanwhile, the search for a tax base goes on, and that’s what’s propelling the Northwest Quadrant development: It’s seen as a “complementary center to Salt Lake City’s downtown, strengthening the city’s overall tax base.”
The development is a way of bringing population into the city, Christensen says. “If we’re not careful on how we accommodate growth, we’ll push that growth farther away, but also diminish our own numbers,” he says.
With the 2010 Census comes an expectation of lost power for Salt Lake City.
Christensen believes the city could lose two state representatives. That’s not because the city is losing population, though. Rather, Salt Lake City is losing “share” to outlying areas—places like Eagle Mountain and Draper—growing at a fast rate, according to Pamela Perlich of the Utah Business & Economic Research Bureau.
“Salt Lake City may have at least as many people as it did 10 years ago, but the issue is that the rest of the county has grown more rapidly,” she says.
Christensen, a Republican, says he understands the value of Salt Lake City’s Democratic legislators. “They are key to making our point,” he says. Of course, the city has become more and more isolated in Utah’s sea of GOP dominance, and the addition of a Republican legislator from the Northwest Quadrant might give Salt Lake City more strength on the Hill.
Christensen has been praising the master plan since he was first elected in 1998. “In my naveté, I thought it could be done in four years; four terms later, it’s finally at the point where we can come to a decision,” he says.
Christensen even left his job with the LDS Church in 2005 to avoid the appearance of conflict and now works as a community development representative for Zions Bank. His older brother, who also worked for the church, retired a year ago and has had no direct involvement in the proposed development, Christensen says.
Politics aside, there are ecological considerations that have worried others who’ve been fighting just as hard to halt any development plans.