This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Far too often, economic development efforts talked up by the private sector and by local governments amount to so much groveling.
Please, Mr. Big Time Developer, please build row after row of ticky-tack homes, or big box stores and office parks with acres of parking, in our community. We promise to give you permission to do just about anything you want.
We'll put millions of taxpayer dollars into roads and schools. We'll give you huge tax breaks, privatizing profits and socializing costs, because there's no other way we could expect anyone to help us develop our poor little community, add jobs and, someday, pay your way in taxes.
If, that is, you haven't already pulled up stakes and moved to the next town that wooed you with the same promises.
But it doesn't always have to be that way. And when the opportunity arises for cities and counties to be discerning, picky, even downright demanding in how their communities will be developed, it must be seized.
That's what the cities and counties in and around the Utah State Prison in Draper on the border of Salt Lake and Utah counties can and should demand as they go forward with what promises to be a giant redevelopment of the 700 acres that will be vacated if the prison does, as planned, move to a site west of Salt Lake City International Airport.
At a meeting of the Point of the Mountain Development Commission Monday, the outfit tasked by the Legislature to manage the redevelopment of the area was told that the parcel stands to be among the most valuable tracts of land in Utah history.
The location, in an area that's already rapidly growing, replete with high-tech businesses, with existing highway and rail access, is likely to draw interest from deep-pocketed developers worldwide. Which means it is time for the affected communities, and the state as a whole, to hold out for the best.
That's why the process must be as transparent as possible, so that we all know who is offering what to whom, and for how much. So we can be confident that taxpayers who already live here, and all the people the explosion of development will attract, won't suffer from back-room sweetheart deals.
Developers should pay their own way, not just for their own projects but all the necessary pubic infrastructure. That includes both roads and the significant public transit components the already traffic-snarled neighborhood will need.
It also includes, for any significant residential component, impact fees for building schools. It includes standards for sustainability, renewable energy, low- to no-carbon footprint construction, walkability, with fair amounts of affordable housing, open space, even urban agriculture.
The dirt that sits under the prison is, we are told, the envy of the world. The buildings that are to rise there must be, too.