Following a recent study, a county consultant is recommending that the Utah Department of Transportation accelerate the construction timeline on a full Interstate 84 interchange at the base of Trapper’s Loop in Mountain Green because “it makes sense fiscally and economically; supports smart planning; facilitates smart growth; will improve access to Snowbasin; and will improve public safety.”
Consultant Lewis Young Robertson & Burningham, Inc. (LYRB) presented its Mountain Green Interchange Fiscal and Economic Impact Analysis report to the Morgan County Council on Oct. 17.
“It is much more than a new highway, but a ‘gateway’ for sustainable growth for the northern end of Morgan County,” said LYRB’s Jason Burningham. “The interchange is a significant component of overall development. Without it would be a lot less demand. Development would certainly be accelerated because of the interchange.”
The full interchange is estimated to cost $47.5 million, Burningham said. The project would include the interchange stretching over I-84 and Cottonwood Creek, while box culverts would need to be extended to make way for the proposed 150 foot right of way.
Two big players
The two big players shaping Mountain Green’s future are the still-undeveloped Village at Trapper’s Loop and Snowbasin mountain development. Together, the two Morgan County developments could bring almost 3,000 more lots to the area.
Duane Johnson’s Village at Trapper Loop calls for conceptual development of 387 single-family residential units, 280 multi-family residential units, 270 rooms in up to four hotels, 64,000 square feet of office space, 320,000 square feet of office/warehouse space, and 132,000 square feet of retail space.
When completed, the estimated taxable value of the area would be $128 million, which would result in increased tax revenues for the county, to the tune of 12 percent of what the current taxable value is in the county. The study pointed out that more revenue would come into the county if the interchange were built vs. if it were not, or $194,000 more annually and $3.8 million over 20 years.
Snowbasin’s conceptual mountain development proposes 640 single-family residential units, 1,654 multi-family residential units, 77 specialty and “boutique” retail units, 77 office units and one golf course. The taxable value of the project at completion would be $741 million.
“Both together is the entire taxable value of the county now,” Burningham said.
More jobs, taxable sales
The two development together would bring an estimated 3,740 more jobs to the area including 2,241 jobs for commercial office; 1,013 for neighborhood retail; 351 for fast food; 84 for hotel; 31 for grocery; 14 for golf course; and six for gas station. Almost 1,000 of these jobs would be in the village and over 2,700 would be at Snowbasin.
“That is significant in terms of employment,” Burningham said. “The reality is we are seeing shoulder counties throughout the state becoming more and more appealing to tech-oriented companies, biomedical disciplines. They don’t need to be right in a metropolitan area, but proximity is appealing.”
Another benefit of increased development is the increased spending and annual taxable sales revenue it could bring to Morgan County, the study points out. For every additional resident that comes to Morgan County, annual taxable sales would increase by over $42,000, according to the study.
“I am excited that after years of working with Morgan County, the Council understands the time is now for my land to anchor the new interchange, which will create a new store to buy milk (and the ability for residents to buy) a loaf of bread without driving miles,” Johnson said.
The public/private partnership that leads to village development would keep sales tax in Morgan County instead of letting it escape to Weber or Davis County, Morgan County Economic Development Director Steven Lyon said.
The firm noted several existing and proposed residential developments in the Mountain Green area that the interchange would serve including: Snowbasin (0 percent completion of 2,447 conceptual lots), Mountain Green Village Development Agreement (0 percent completion of 533 conceptual lots), Ponderosa (3 percent completion of 94 conceptual lots), Cottonwoods Development Agreement (30 percent of 830 lots); Whisper Ridge (66 percent of 64 lots), Woodland Heights (67 percent of 30 lots), Highlands (79 percent of 210 lots), Rollins Ranch (86 percent of 154 lots), Rosehill (91 percent of 70 lots), and Trappers Pointe (100 percent of 67 lots).
With so much potential for residential housing development, the population of the county is set to increase between 1.6 and 3.2 percent annually, the study said. In the next decade, the current 11,400 population could increase to as much as 12,368 or 16,168.
Mountain Green already accounts for 1/7th of the population of Morgan County. In the past five years alone, 64 percent of building permits issued by the county have been in Mountain Green.
The village and Snowbasin developments would compound those figures, the study suggests. The village could increase the county’s population by 2,098, or 19 percent, while Snowbasin could increase population by at most 7,213, or a whopping 65 percent population increase.
However, many expect Snowbasin’s development to have a large number of secondary and vacation homes. “It is difficult to forecast how many homes will be primary residencies and how many will not,” the study noted. As much as 40 percent of the population increase at Snowbasin could be seasonal, Burningham said.
But increased development, jobs, sales and population also bring increased expenses for Morgan County, including government, administration, public safety and public works spending. The firm projected these expenses. With the interchange, the village would cost the county on average $178,019 annually in related expenses. Without the interchange, the village would cost the county on average $122,685 annually in related expenses. With or without the interchange, the Snowbasin mountain development would cost Morgan County on average $1 million annually.
The firm noted that the school district would also see increases in expenses due to the village and Snowbasin mountain developments. Said the district believes there would be no net benefit from the developments, as an increase in revenue would equal the increase in costs. However, the consultant said the district’s view may be “overlay conservative.”
Return on investment
The increased revenues/benefits vs. the expected expenses boil down to return on investment numbers, or ROI. With the interchange, the village and Snowbasin developments will yield a 17 percent ROI, according to the study. This means that fiscal benefits will be realized after eight years. The village development with an interchange alone, not considering Snowbasin, would break even after 16 years.
“That is a very good number. From an economic and fiscal perspective, it seems very reasonable,” Burningham said.
“Without the interchange, (the village development) would be a different use, not the same economic tax base you would achieve otherwise. The interchange goes a long ways in making village development more compatible, and certainly better in terms of traffic mitigation,” Burningham said. “Without the interchange, the mountain development is not a current market feasible project. The interchange is really the only element that would drive some of that development.”
LYRB has studied other interstate interchanges, such as those long the I-15 corridor including Pleasant Grove, Lindon, American Fork, and the southern parkway corridor near the new airport in St. George, Burningham said. After such experience, Burningham said a new interchange would “provide benefit in terms of traffic coordination” at the base of Trapper’s Loop.
For the Mountain Green study, LYRB consulted with private developers, Morgan’s economic development director, county staff, county councilmembers, and large institutions such as the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, Utah League of Cities and Towns, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Burningham said.
Demand for more office space
What surfaced was the demand for technology- and research-oriented office space in Morgan, or a “shoulder county” of the Wasatch Front within relative close proximity to more urban areas.
“Flex” office warehouse is also in high demand, with 25 percent of the space dedicated to office, technology and logistics, and the remainingg 75 percent for warehousing, light manufacturing and inventory. “There is a lot of tax value with those,” Burningham said. “It brings a significant amount of higher-paying, good quality jobs. That is a reality in that area.”
Burningham said retail, office and flex space is in higher demand than what area developers are currently proposing for their developments.
And everyone is after the view that Mountain Green offers. The view from Snowbasin is “pretty phenomenal, frankly,” Burningham said, “except there are no (current) amenities. Nothing allows you to stay up there.”
State help needed
In the end, LYRB’s study supported the interchange, but pointed out that a rural county funding a $47.5 million project without state support “is unachievable.”
“Based on our evaluation and review, and really our experience with other interchanges that went through a similar process, it makes fiscal and economic sense for the interchange,” Burningham said. “We have a lot more scarcity in land than we did decades and decades ago. If we continue to have economic prosperity, we are going to have to be smarter in our growth patterns. We have traditionally sprawled. Smart growth brings mixed uses together to work, live and play in one place.”