Controversy surrounds proposed student housing complex in Orem

Mar 21, 2018, 7:31 PM | Updated: 9:35 pm

OREM — A battle is brewing in Orem over a proposed student housing complex to be built adjacent to Utah Valley University.  The city and the University want to enable more students to live close to campus, but many area residents don’t want the extra traffic and are fighting to block it.

The city of Orem recently rezoned the property surrounding 500 West and 1000 South to clear the way for the student housing complex.  It is are surrounded by the University on three sides.

“It will be one of the largest high density apartment units in the city of Orem,” said Mark Tippets, a petition organizer.  “Orem has a lot of high density housing that has come in.”

They’re concerned that a student apartment complex with 1,600 people and 1,200 cars would add too much traffic right across the street from a school.

“[Traffic would] go on to our already busy streets that we have,” said Tippets. “Especially across the street from Lakeridge Junior High School.”

He and others organized a referendum petition. If they get more than 6,700 signatures before April 1, the citizens of Orem will get to vote on whether this project goes ahead on the municipal November ballot in 2019.

Those opposed to this development want to preserve single family home residential areas from rezoning. They also want to send a message to the Orem City Council that they oppose high density housing projects next to schools and homes.

Utah Valley University and the city see the project as a positive development for students and the surrounding community.

“This gives our students a chance to have the on-campus housing experience,” said Richard Brunst, mayor of Orem. “It gives more apartments to them to live in, which we’re short on.”

According to the city, UVU has 37,000 students. But, only 12 percent can find student housing in the area. Orem’s mayor says the project will also ease commuter traffic and parking issues on campus.

Students are on spring break this week, but the ones we talked with want more housing close to campus.

“I don’t have any transportation,” said Brandon Randolph, a student from Los Angeles. “So, I have to walk to school.”

When he gets a ride from friends, he says, it can take a half hour to find parking on campus. If he lived nearby, or on campus, he would save a lot of time.

Woodbury Corporation, one of the project developers, says that’s why they’re building the housing.

“Students, who would otherwise have to commute to school, will be able to be here, and be able to walk to campus,” said Taylor Woodbury, Chief Operating Officer of Woodbury Corporation. He said the company designed the project to direct traffic away from residential neighborhoods.

“It was one of the primary things we focused on as we designed this project,” said Woodbury. “This project has the potential to take thousands of cars off the road during peak rush-hour times.”

The petitioners have a different idea for the land.

“We believe that probably the best use for this would be for parking, low impact,” said Tippets. They believe that would cause less traffic and fewer safety issue in their neighborhoods.

Woodbury said they will continue to work with all groups to make people proud of the project.

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Controversy surrounds proposed student housing complex in Orem