How does the saying go? You never realize how much something means to you until it’s gone?
When it comes to the Utah State Prison’s possible relocation to Miller Motorsports Business Park in the middle of Tooele Valley, we’re delighted and relieved to see so many local officials and citizens realize how valuable that property is to Tooele County’s future — before it’s too late.
Community outcry has steadily increased since the state’s Prison Relocation Commission announced on Dec. 2 that the Miller Motorsports Business Park — located on Sheep Lane and across the street from Miller Motorsports Park and Deseret Peak Complex — is one of six potential finalists for the new prison.
The intensity of the blowback, and its chorus of elected officials and citizens, has come somewhat as a surprise. Local resistance was small when the relocation commission first began looking at Tooele County in 2012. And there was little outcry when the relocation commission announced two months ago that the county’s sites had been dropped from the finalists’ list.
But then the relocation commission launched its unexpected bombshell on Dec. 2 that put 900 acres of prime commercial property in the heart of Tooele Valley on a “short list” of prospective prison finalists. The commission said the Miller property scored a 10 out of 15 for community acceptance in its review criteria. A consultant to the relocation commission described the property as “isolated with little or no development nearby.”
Those words, perhaps more than anything else, show just how ridiculous, unpredictable and possibly subjective this prison relocation project has become. A score of 10 out of 15 for community acceptance? Isolated? No development nearby? Erda and Grantsville, which abut the property, have a combined population of more than 14,000 citizens. And Tooele City’s 33,000 citizens are just up the road.
Without question, a new Utah State Prison at Miller Motorsports Business Park is unacceptable. The facility’s possible negative societal impacts on the county are one compelling argument. But the larger argument that concerns us has two key points: The Miller property is prime commercial ground that is looked upon to help boost the county’s future tax rolls and also wean the county from its over dependence on the Wasatch Front for jobs.
The second point is the state’s reason to relocate the prison to open the Draper site for lucrative economic development, will, if not already, apply to the Miller property in just a few years. Also, as Tooele Valley’s population increases, Erda, Grantsville and Tooele City will undoubtedly encroach on Sheep Lane.
But at the end of the day, we must remember one thing: The Miller Motorsports Business Park is not publicly owned. It’s owned by the Miller Family. They can put a swift end to all the talk — not the relocation commission.
With that said, the Miller Family is respectfully encouraged, for the sake of Tooele County’s future economic vitality, to withdraw their property from the Prison Relocation Commission’s short list.
To not do so is a departure from Greg Miller’s original intent for the ground, which he stated in 2009 to be for light industrial and tech operations, a “little village populated with progressive and ethical businesses that produce goods and services.”
A new Utah State Prison would certainly be no little village.