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Petitions out in Orem for referendum on student housing zone change

February 28, 2018 GMT

The clock started ticking Monday for a group of Orem residents seeking signatures on a petition to ultimately give voters the opportunity to decide if a student housing complex should be built on 400 West, near Lakeridge Junior High School and Utah Valley University.

Applicants have until April 11 to collect 6,741 registered voters’ signatures. That many signatures will put the petition on the November 2019 ballot.

The cover page to the petition notes that the undersigned residents “respectfully order” that Ordinance No. O-2018-0005 passed by the Orem City Council on Feb. 13, be referred to the voters for their approval or rejection at the municipal general election to be held on Nov. 5, 2019.

On Feb. 15, advisors with the Southwest Orem Neighborhood Association (SWONA) met to discuss its response to the Orem City Council voting 5-2 in favor of rezoning the area around the future Palos Verdes apartments. The rezone paves the way for the Palos Verdes project to move forward.

The main concern was opposing PEG and Woodbury Corporation’s housing proposal, as the group said it would destabilize the neighborhoods east and north of UVU.

After weighing in on the pros and cons of the issue, SWONA decided there was no other recourse than to petition for a ballot referendum.

However, SWONA, as an organization, would only support the petition behind the scenes. The petition drive will not be officially sponsored or run by the association. There are several names listed as applicants on the petition; the first three names are Mark Tippetts, Dave Busath and Murray Low. All three are associated with SWONA, as are others on the list.

The Palos Verdes Petition Drive will have a kickoff party at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Activity Center, Utah County Academy of Sciences, 940 W. 800 South, Orem.

There are a few points of contention that have brought this to a head according to the referendum drive notice emailed to Orem residents Tuesday. They include:

Allowing UVU to grow to nearly double its current size.Lakeridge Junior High Students would be exposed to college student lifestyles and college-aged drivers.A commuter college of UVU’s future size would cause a total collapse of nearby neighborhoods.At $545 a month for a 12-month contract, the 1,100 private bed, private bath rooms, comprising 1,605 beds total, are not going to serve Orem students, but rather commuter students who can afford high rents.PEG and Woodbury Corporation worked with the UVU Foundation to purchase the entire Palos Verdes neighborhood on the east UVU boundary. They demolished houses, and then submitted their zone change request to the city. SWONA says this approach sets a bad precedent and tips the balance towards neighborhood collapse.

In a counter to the petition, Woodbury Corporation sent a mailer this week to Orem residents asking them to learn the facts and not sign the petition.

The mailer gives four major reasons why the project should move forward:

It provides students with much needed housing.It helps students succeed.It takes cars off the streets.It benefits the community’s future students.

“Our biggest challenge is getting people to not react,” said Taylor Woodbury, Woodbury Corporation’s COO. “We didn’t force anybody out of their homes.”

According to Woodbury if this project fails, “The reality is at some point, we’ll find some other use for the ground.”

For more than a year, city staff, council, Woodbury and PEG have hashed and rehashed, worked and reworked the project until it fit in the proposed area, according to Woodbury.

In a emailed statement, Cameron Martin, vice president for UVU public relations said, “UVU desires to maintain the integrity and sense of community surrounding the Orem Campus, and is committed to the safety of students accessing Lakeridge Junior High and UVU.”

Martin said in his email that UVU supports the Orem City Council’s recent action approving the rezoning of the Palos Verdes land for the following reasons:

It will lighten traffic in the Orem area because students living there will walk to campus. It is convenient to UTA’s mass transit system; students will use their unlimited access to FrontRunner, all bus lines, and the new BRT line to access community services and events without the need of a car.It meets the growing demand for additional, affordable student housing.It will help improve student retention and completion because of the convenient access students will have to university services and activities.

“It should be noted that the developer has met all requirements imposed on them by Orem City, Alpine School District and the university,” Martin said. “Additionally, they have implemented many design changes suggested by the local neighbors to improve the safety of Lakeridge and UVU students and to build a strong sense of community.