It’s no secret that Tooele County is one of the fastest growing areas in the fastest growing state in the nation. As a Realtor I deal with that growth every day. As a Tooele City planning and zoning commissioner, I see it as well, albeit in a very different way.
It’s also no secret there are those who live here that aren’t very happy about that growth. I also see and hear from them frequently! I’m writing this to address a couple of the things I’m hearing frequently from those who oppose development “in their backyard.”
This isn’t about whether growth is a good thing or a bad thing. In fact, it’s probably both. With growth comes the ability to get some of the amenities that many say they want, but can’t afford. It also places burdens on all of us. This may be in the form of traffic or strain on other infrastructure. Maybe it’s simply a change in the type of community many of us moved here for.
However, what I want to talk about are a couple of the things I hear when discussing the effect of the growth — specifically the “evil” of higher density. I’m going to focus on two specific things. First, the effect density has on property values of surrounding properties.
Property values are something I deal with as part of my day job. Last week at a public hearing on a potential development, a line of people came to the mic to talk about how this development would “destroy” their values.
In past meetings, I’ve droned on and on about how the facts simply don’t back this up. In fact, the result is the direct opposite! Don’t believe me? How about the folks at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah? In their study on this issue from February of this year, they concluded that single family properties located within a half mile of new apartment developments appreciated in value at a rate 1.4% higher than those located farther away. You can read the whole study here at gardner.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/HighDensity-Feb2021.pdf.
I won’t bore you with the reasons behind this as there are many and they are detailed nicely in this report. Essentially, it means that those of you spouting decreasing values from the podium, either in person or the electronic version, are factually inaccurate.
The second problem I want to talk about is an effect that our NIMBY — Not In My Backyard — attitude is having on the very quality of life that we claim to be protecting.
By constantly trying to protect ourselves from an invasion of “those people” that live in apartments and townhomes, we seem to be forgetting who “those people” really are.
I sat through a City Council meeting a couple weeks back as the council listened to the city human resources director and the police chief trying to figure out how to retain officers in an environment where we are competing with areas that can pay better.
Cost of housing was a very hot topic here. It was mentioned that Tooele City was down five officers, one of which had cited the inability to afford to live here.
So, who are “these people” that we don’t want in our backyard? It’s our teachers. It’s our police officers. It’s our firefighters. It’s our children who may never be able to start out here like we did. I can’t speak for everyone, but I love having my children close by, because that means my grandkids are close by.
It’s time to open our minds up to creating opportunities for those who mean the most to us. To me that means using real information before standing in the way of growth. If there are real, legitimate reasons to stop a development, I’m on board. However, if your source is the University of Facebook, that’s not good enough!
Chris Sloan is owner/broker of Group 1 Real Estate with over 22 years experience of real estate in Tooele County. He also is a member of the Tooele City Planning and Zoning Commission.