If you’ve set foot on campus this year (or even the area surrounding it) chances are you’ve heard of the debate going on about Proposition 5, slated to hit the ballot on Nov. 6. This proposition aims to rezone 9.58 acres at approximately 1000 South and 400 West from the current R8 residential zone, to a PD-48 student housing zone. As most can imagine, this has many residents (thousands in fact) very upset.
The highly controversial proposition has gained negative publicity for various reasons ranging from potential increases in safety hazards for nearby junior high school students, to a possible increase in traffic congestion in the area. The biggest group opposed to the proposition is “Let Orem Vote,” a Utah political issues committee dedicated to giving the citizens of Orem a stronger voice. According to their website, their mission is to keep Orem a “strong, and family-oriented city.”
The main issue pressured by LOV in opposition of Prop 5 is that its passing could compromise the safety and well-being of children attending Lakeridge Junior High school. The school in question is directly across from the proposed Palos Verdes development and according to PublicSchoolReview.com has a student body of nearly 1,200.
LOV also claims that Orem City projects a traffic impact of over 5,000 additional car trips per day on nearby residential streets if Prop 5 passes. Looking at the issue as a whole, the argument can be made that an increase in traffic can directly correlate to an increase in automobile-pedestrian accidents especially amongst kids. With that being said, it’s valid to assume that a 1600-bed development going up across the street from a junior high school has the potential to cause real issues.
Supporters of the proposition claim that since the high-density housing project will reduce the need for students to drive to classes, this will in turn reduce traffic and accidents holistically. However, as any current or former UVU student reading this knows, there is always a need for a car whether it be to drive to work or to the nearest fast food joint. This simple point makes their argument meritless; just because students don’t have to drive to school doesn’t mean that they don’t have to drive anywhere. With that being said, the issue of increased traffic is seemingly unavoidable if the proposition is passed.
Additionally, I would imagine that the hassle of getting around the only quiet side of campus left will be no different than that at the intersection of Sandhill Road and University Parkway if the proposition is passed. For anyone familiar with the congestion that the infamous area gets, it makes finding parking and ultimately getting to class a challenging task. So while traffic will be inconvenient for residents on the east side of campus, it presumably will be for UVU students as well.
Aside from the issues of traffic and safety, nearby residents opposing Prop 5 ultimately disagree with the claim that Palos Verdes and developments like it will truly benefit UVU students. While supporters of the proposition claim that the passing of Prop 5 will “improve the UVU student learning experience,” as a student it draws the question of how exactly the student body as whole will benefit? I find myself asking the question “How will all students benefit from official student housing going up?” After much thought my answer is simple: they won’t.
According to Mark Tippets, an Orem citizen and chairmen of LOV, the price of what he calls a “high-priced country club” development will be detrimental to the mission that UVU prides itself on. “UVU Students face a critical shortage of affordable housing within walking distance of UVU. While renting an apartment for under $300 next to BYU in Provo is relatively easy, finding affordable student housing near UVU is almost impossible,” Tippets said. “The proposed Woodbury/PEG development east of campus is touted as the solution to this problem. It would be, if the student housing were affordably priced. Low-priced housing would benefit all UVU students and create pressure on other complexes to lower rents.”
It seems as though the points that supporters of Prop. 5 are making do not truly reflect the opinions and concerns that UVU students have. In my opinion, the claim that these multi-million dollar deals are done with students in mind seems disingenuous. While there’s a lot of conversation surrounding the topic of Proposition 5, I believe that students should have a say in what they want to see with student housing moving forward, rather than sitting idly by and letting UVU’s “5-year master plan” go without their voices being heard. The best way to do that is for students to do their own independent research, come to their own conclusions and ultimately make their voices heard through voting on Nov. 6.
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