(KUTV) — Next month, voters in Orem will decide the fate of a student housing project next to Utah Valley University.
Some neighbors are fighting the project, even though the university and city are on-board with plans to turn the land into apartments for 1,600 students. It’s on the ballot as Proposition 5.
“It’s critical that UVU get more student housing close to campus,” said Taylor Woodbury, chief operating officer of Woodbury Corporation.
His company and Peg Development bought and tore down about 30 homes in the subdivision surrounding Palos Verdes Drive on the east side of campus. Orem City Council then approved a zoning change to allow the apartments, but neighbors collected enough signatures to block the move until the election.
“It’ll be the closest of any student housing to the university,” said Steven Downs, deputy city manager of Orem. “In fact, a pedestrian walkway would be built under the road to take people directly onto campus.”
Mark Tippets, who lives in a nearby subdivision, said increased traffic is part of his concern. He’s also worried about his subdivision ending up the same way, with homes sold to a developer. UVU identified three sites for future student housing, including the Palos Verdes project and Tippets’ neighborhood.
“This one just opens the door,” Tippets said. “It’s a domino effect so once this one comes in, there will be another one that’ll go, and that one actually affects my neighborhood.”
Scott Trotter, UVU spokesman, declined to comment. He pointed to a position statement approved in September in which the board of trustees advocated voting for Proposition 5.
“Studies show that student housing in close proximity to a campus increases student engagement, retention, and graduation rates,” part of the statement reads.
The university endowment fund has invested in the project, according to Woodbury, although he made clear that the funding is made up entirely of private donations.
If voters do not support Proposition 5 and the developers cannot move forward with their plans, Woodbury said UVU would likely buy the land and build student housing.
If the state owns the project, neither local schools nor the city would benefit from property tax revenue. UVU estimates Alpine School District would miss out on $400,000 annually and the city of Orem would not receive about $74,000 annually.
UVU is the fastest-growing university in the state, with about 37,000 students, most of whom commute.