Orem residents campaign to stop housing development
Photo by Kimberly Bojorquez
Student housing complex projected to house 1,600+ residents
Not everyone is in favor of the Palos Verdes project, which is the proposed five-story housing complex planned to house over 1,600 residents in four buildings by the fall 2019 semester.
Organizers from the Let Orem Vote campaign have begun a petition against the development in order to overturn Orem City Council’s decision to rezone the land’s use for the housing development located on the west side of campus, near 1000 South and 400 West.
With a growing student population of over 37,000 students, UVU does not own dorms or student housing complexes and depends on private developers to meet student housing needs.
“It’s not a dormitory, but it is built for students. It is built to rent to students,” said Cameron Martin, vice president of university relations. “We want this to happen but we also want it to go through a public process that is local.”
Orem city would benefit from the private developers owning the student housing complex.
If UVU built student housing themselves then there would be no property tax revenue going to the city of Orem to “offset the load that such a development would incur upon a city,” according to Martin.
Nick Varney, a senior at UVU, said the benefits of the housing development are “immeasurable,” and it could lead to students spending more time on campus and with their professors.
“I have friends who can’t find housing around campus, so they live in Draper or BYU housing,” Varney said. “They would much rather live close on campus. They would much rather spend time in those dorms collaborating with those students that are in their classes.”
So far, organizers have gathered 6,000 of the 6,741 signatures needed to get the development to a public vote on the November ballot.
PEG Development and Woodbury Corp., the development team behind the housing complex, purchased and tore down 24 homes before the area was rezoned for the project.
“I was shocked to find out that they had gone in and tore down homes and did all this before they even got their zoning,” said Bonnie Merrill, who has lived in walking distance of UVU for 30 years.
According to Martin, after buying the homes, developers demolished the empty homes to reduce crime associated with unlawful occupancy.
“We as a community deserve better,” said Merrill.
Merrill is also concerned with the project being constructed too close to the junior high. It is planned that PEG Development and Woodbury Corp. will pay for the addition of traffic signals in the area.
UVU alum Devin Rich, who graduated in 2014, says UVU needs more student housing, but doesn’t believe the Palos Verdes development is the answer and wants “something better” and more affordable for students.
According to Woodbury Corp. representatives, the average cost of a private room is up to $530 a month.
Martin said that university officials have met with community members and residents 40 times in the last two and a half years to discuss development in the neighborhood. He said developers have redone the blueprints of the development three times after getting input from the community, city and the university.
The project has been held to a higher function and standard than any other development in Orem, according to Martin.
Orem resident Murray Low says the city is in a growth crisis and that UVU’s growth is having an “overwhelming impact” on the neighborhoods.
“Thus far, this impact growth has been indirect, but if we start to allow this development and others that could be proposed, this now becomes a direct impact on southwest Orem,” said Low.
Martin hopes that the city, university and community neighbors can agree on a zoning overlay that could prevent other property developers from building additional apartment complexes in the neighborhood.
Kimberly Bojórquez is a Los Angeles native currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in journalism, and a minor in Latin American Studies. From 2017-18 she served as the editor-in-chief of the UVU Review and worked at ABC4’s morning show “Good Things Utah”, Salt Lake City Weekly and the Daily Herald.
She has written stories that relate to national issues, local crime and social justice. In her spare time, she loves to take photos, hike Utah’s national parks and attend live rock concerts.