This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Census numbers confirm what rush-hour traffic has been telling us for a while: Point of the Mountain is booming.
And it's booming so much that the area where Salt Lake and Utah counties meet has arguably become the new epicenter of Utah. The two counties accounted for more than half of the state's new residents in 2015, and Utah County nearly matched Salt Lake County for adding new people. Most of that growth is close to the county line.
For those who have watched politics in Utah, the results of that demographic shift have been evident for a while. The staunchly Republican area has become a font for state political leaders. Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Mia Love come from Utah County, as does Gov. Gary Herbert.
And the two houses of the Utah Legislature are headed by Sandy and Draper Republicans. That firepower was on display when legislators pushed to move the Utah State Prison so the 700-acre site could be developed.
The area is also ground zero for growth's biggest complications. With most new residents coming from maternity wards, it is schools that get hit first. The Jordan School District literally can't keep up. It is mostly a bedroom district without much commercial or industrial base, and tight budgets require putting hundreds of students in temporary trailers and operating middle schools at almost twice their capacity. On the other side of the hill, Alpine School District this fall will open its second high school in Lehi, Skyridge, and the district projects it will need a third Lehi high school within eight years.
Through no fault of their own, the districts face the challenge as two of the lowest per-pupil spenders among the 41 school districts. Neither one is poised to benefit directly from development of the prison site, which sits in Canyons School District.
And to get to those crowded schools, students will travel on increasingly congested roads, extending commute times and adding more air pollution. In short, the area is becoming urbanized. If the communities in the growth belt don't recognize that and plan for it, they will grow into a mess.
To head that off, they may want to look north for an example. Salt Lake City, which also continues to grow, is still Utah's largest city and its cultural, economic, educational and governmental hub. More important, it is showing Utahns how urban life can be both functional and fulfilling. The city has seen a growth in cultural amenities and a boom in higher density housing along mass transit routes, the result of purposeful planning.
Accept it, greater Draper/Bluffdale/Riverton/Lehi/Pleasant Grove area. You're becoming one big city. The only question remaining is whether you'll be a good one.