Lots at Lehi’s Thanksgiving Point are under consideration for housing development

lehi • Years of rapid population growth is catching up with Utah County, and now some popular open spaces in Thanksgiving Point may be giving way to housing development.

The Utah Transit Authority and Lehi are working together on plans for state-mandated development around the FrontRunner station there, and private developers received initial approval a year ago to build up to 2,000 high-density homes, also on 11th Street hectares of UTA train station grounds as well as several locations within the popular holiday resort.

Transport-oriented development (TOD) aims in part to create more moderately priced housing while curbing car-centric commuting and all the ugly traffic congestion across the region by building affordable housing near employment centers.

The plans also increase the chances that the state will one day build a major east-west access road, Clubhouse Drive, through downtown Thanksgiving Point and its world-class golf course — after lawmakers adopt the commuter artery along State Route 92 in 2022 .

All of this astonishes some Lehites. It’s made Granger Peck and other cautious homeowners whose high-end real estate is dotted around the resort less like NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and more like NOMGOCs (not on my golf course).

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Granger Peck, a golfer and resident who has lived near Thanksgiving Point in Lehi since 2007, is among residents fighting against a new 2,000-unit residential and commercial development being dubbed as Part of the traffic-oriented Thanksgiving Station planned in Lehi is tarpaulins.

“It’s a great, top-notch course, and they want to make a terrible joke out of it,” said Peck, a retired university professor who moved to Thanksgiving Point in 2007.

He is among those campaigning to derail the Clubhouse Drive expansion and developer Slopes Residential’s plans for high-rise apartments and retail outlets on what fans of Thanksgiving Point know as Cornbelly’s Corn Maze and the football fields north of FrontRunner become.

“The citizens of Lehi don’t want a high-density gated community in a resort for obvious reasons,” Peck said on a golf cart tour, “and we don’t want roads crossing and destroying the resort.”

Local resident Larry LaCroix admits that as a lifelong golf fan, he is motivated to defend the 18-hole course’s lush fairways and putting greens designed by golfing legend Johnny Miller. “But that,” he said, “is not the point here.”

“They want to spend $50 million of my taxpayer money to go a 1/13th of a mile to connect to 2100 North, which is already bumper-to-bumper because they overbuilt the area,” LaCroix lamented. “What an ingenious concept!”

manage record growth

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A new 1,800-unit residential-commercial development proposed as part of Lehi’s transportation-focused Thanksgiving Station plan could punch a hole in the middle of Thanksgiving Point Golf Course, just left of the clubhouse ( see figure). above to connect a five lane road to the Holbrook Farms neighborhood to the west and across the Jordan River, pictured Monday June 12, 2023.

Founded in 1995 by philanthropists Karen and Alan Ashton, Thanksgiving Point, with its farms, gardens and museums, has been one of the county’s top attractions and welcomes an estimated 2.8 million visitors annually.

At the same time, Utah’s tech-centric Silicon Slopes — with employers in northern Utah County and southern Salt Lake County — have exploded in size.

Lehi boomed from 47,300 residents in 2010 to around 86,280 this year and is projected to grow to 110,750 by 2040. Utah County is also expected to have over a million residents by the end of the decade, up from about 710,000 today.

UTA’s new plan for the Thanksgiving Point train station development found that Lehi’s housing stock has shifted sharply toward affluent single-family homes over these decades, leaving it “socio-economically homogeneous” and having “significant need” for single- or two bedroom consists of lower income residents.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Larry LaCroix, a golfer and local resident who lives near Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, is among residents opposed to a new 1,800-unit residential and commercial development being built as part of Lehi’s traffic-oriented Thanksgiving Station plan. The plan also called for converting the Clubhouse Drive bridge behind him into a five-lane road that would punch a hole in the middle of the golf club.

In 2020, Slopes Residential — a partnership of Lehi’s Stack Real Estate, Salt Lake City-based Gardner Co. and Thanksgiving Point itself — proposed construction of 5,837 residential units, including a 14-story high-rise apartment building, and office and retail space at the new Lehi DEATH.

The city council strongly opposed this plan. After much back-and-forth between the city and developers over road and utility improvements, and linking major upgrades to each phase of the project, it has since been downsized to about 1,800 units.

Lehi planners are preparing these benchmarks for review by the city planning commission, said Kim Struthers, director of community development.

What about Clubhouse Drive?

The latest scenario calls for 1,250 apartments on the Cornbelly site, 350 on the football fields and an additional 200 units on UTA’s property. Thanksgiving Point’s Electric Park and Farm Country, which were also previously considered development sites, are not included in the latest plans.

This also makes the Clubhouse Drive extension more important for future work. For years, city leaders have viewed the expansion as a way to ease east-west traffic congestion, Struthers said. Much of this is due to a decade of record-breaking growth and immigration to Lehi and cities further west.

In 2022, lawmakers ordered the Utah Department of Transportation to fund an environmental study to extend adjacent SR-92 west through the golf course to incorporate Clubhouse Drive into the freeway and give the state jurisdiction over its future.

“We know we can’t do the 2,000 units without expanding Clubhouse Drive west of the Jordan River,” Struthers said. “Traffic would stop at a certain point.”

That work, he added, “is now out of the city’s control.”

Does a TOD help with traffic jams?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Thanksgiving Point cornfield and adjacent soccer field in Lehi is the proposed site for a new 2,000-unit residential and commercial development planned as part of Lehi’s transit-centric Thanksgiving Station plan.

Thanksgiving Point CEO McKay Christensen said major roads like Triumph Boulevard and 2100 North are already congested as commuters from Lehi, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain drive every day to connect to Interstate 15. Prioritizing these and other road improvements over Clubhouse Drive, he said, “is the smart way to go.”

More broadly, the CEO said, it makes sense for Lehi, the surrounding cities, the resort’s technicians and burgeoning employment base to create more affordable housing closer to the freeway as part of a transportation-focused development.

“It’s getting attention that FrontRunner is here,” Christensen said, “and helping people get used to using it, which I think is a goal of the entire state.”

Christensen also said the idea of ​​adding more accessible multi-family homes to the resort aligned with the core intent behind the Ashtons’ founding of Thanksgiving Point.

“It could be a really great, walkable community,” he said, “with green spaces, bike lanes, and open spaces.” That seems pretty consistent with that original vision.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Golfers head to the fairway of the 11th hole at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club on Monday, June 12, 2023.

Struthers, Lehi’s community development director, said the city hopes it can slow ongoing traffic congestion by building housing around FrontRunner, as well as future transit stations and bus lines that UTA plans.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t have traffic problems,” he said. “But that will make it less congested in the long run.”

Peck and other homeowners near Thanksgiving Point don’t think so, saying they are skeptical that a traffic-centric approach will impact prevailing driving habits. You just see that it brings in more traffic.

“The car and the garage will always be king. That’s what people prefer,” Peck said. “Does that mean people in Utah County should start acting like they live in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens?” No way.”

Editor’s noteThis story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

Justin Scaccy

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