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Santaquin growing steadily, but working to prepare for future

November 26, 2017 GMT

Santaquin is a growing city with nearly 13,000 residents.

Population projections released in 2016 from the Mountainland Association of Governments show the city having more than 45,000 residents come 2050. But that’s growth that the city has been preparing for.

Benjamin Reeves, city manager, said they like to draw the comparison that Santaquin is much like Lehi, only 25 years ago.

“Genola and Goshen are about the same size as Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs [were],” City Manager Benjamin Reeves said. “Lehi is the only way to get the west side of the lake on the north. We are the only way to get to the west side of Utah Lake on the south.”

“So looking at some of the growth issues that Lehi has experienced 25 years ago, we are doing things like widening our Main Street now,” he added.

Reeves said they expect to have a population of 13,000 in January based on projections for building permits and the number of people per house.

That’s about a six to seven percent growth rate for the city, he said. Last year, the city added 180 residential units, and this year, they expect that number to be 200.

Seeing the city change

Keith Broadhead is currently a city councilman, but also served as a mayor in the 90s. He said that during his time in Santaquin, he’s seen the town grow a lot.

“When moved here in ’74, we had 1,200 people and we had three LDS wards and three bars,” he said. “Now fast forward, we are at 12,000 people, 22 wards in the whole Santaquin area and no bars.”

There are a lot of benefits to that growth, but it has also required careful planning, he said.

“We are trying to stay a step ahead,” Broadhead said. “All the people who have moved in is great, and there’s a lot of good people who have come in. We are looking forward to more.”

Preparing for growth

He said during his time on the city council and as mayor, they made preparing for growth a priority — something that has continued in the years after.

“In the ’90s, we started getting proactive on preparing for growth, and on the City Council since then we have prepared for that so we keep ahead on water, sewer, infrastructure and roads,” Broadhead said. “It’s a struggle because we don’t have a big tax base.”

Reeves said the city has made sure the water, sewer and pressurized irrigation systems are all up-to-date.

“I think we have done a good job building the foundation,” he said.

Focused on roads

The city has also focused on preparing the roads for the future growth.

Reeves said they are working on extending Summit Ridge Parkway, which runs through the southwestern part of the city that is growing the fastest, to Main Street. Construction is expected to start in the spring.

“By connecting our community right here, we think that not only will it provide better emergency response and secondary response, but it will also bring an economic benefit to a future grocery store site as well as just to our Main Street by enhancing our community connectivity, keeping people local,” he said.

They’ve also worked on preserving land for what might be, decades down the line, a freeway that goes around the west side of Utah Lake and connects into Interstate 15 south of Santaquin’s current exits, Reeves said.

To prepare, they have worked to protect the potential freeway corridor, so that nothing is built there between now and the time the road is needed.

The other big road project is the ongoing efforts to widen Main Street. The city took on widening projects in 2011 and 2014, and this year, they submitted for another one with the Mountainland Association of Governments, Reeves said.

“We have plans to continue to widen Main Street,” Mayor Kirk Hunsaker said. “We aren’t just going to leave it a little two-lane road like Lehi did on their Main Street. We are going to try and get it widened before the growth really hits us.”

Bringing in businesses

While the city has seen growth and expects it to continue, Hunsaker said they are still lacking in the commercial realm.

“We need businesses. That’s what we need,” he said.

Reeves said Santaquin is in the area where there are enough people and homes to support businesses, but they are still waiting for them to settle in the area.

He said most of the residents have been asking about and hoping a grocery store will open its doors in town for years. While they can’t say which company it is, a grocer has purchased property in town and has been trying to acquire enough land for a store for four years.

“Everyone has been anticipating this for years,” Reeves said. “They almost have been disheartened. It is right on the edge. We are excited, and we believe this grocer will be an anchor to a much larger development and bringing other businesses.”

Opportunities for residents

Jason Bond, community development director, said the city is working to bring more recreation and entertainment opportunities to Santaquin residents.

“Santaquin is just trying to make the quality of life better, and unfortunately some of that is going to depend on more economic development happening and that just hasn’t come yet,” Bond said. “With that sales tax revenue, we are trying to start doing that, and I think we’ve been trying to do that for awhile. But I think with the growth, it’s something we are putting a bit more effort and more planning into.”

Hunsaker, who was just re-elected for a second term, said he has been focused on families during his time as mayor.

“My focus since I’ve been mayor is family and family activities,” he said. “We are doing a lot that way. … We’ve got a lot of things we are trying to do family wise, and of course our Orchard Days is always been a big deal.”

The city is also working on bringing more community-sponsored events, such as concerts, to the town. They also received an award for the best small rodeo -- the city’s eighth.

Hunsaker said he sees good things down the road for Santaquin, but still expects it will maintain the charm that many residents like about it.

“I still think it will have a hometown country feel because of our agricultural presence around our community,” Hunsaker. “I’m hoping for some businesses that will come in and start bringing some sales tax to our community as well. We are trying our best to be business friendly, which is something new for Santaquin.”