Change. It’s a small word, yet for many the expression spikes our adrenaline and causes our hearts to beat quickly with fear or excitement. Whatever our personal response, this fact remains: nothing is meant to stay the same forever. As intelligent beings, we crave improvement and progression; we long for that something just out of reach and are willing to work hard for it — even if it takes decades to achieve.
For the past 162 years, the area we now call the Wasatch Back has been in a constant state of change. Perhaps one of the most impactful changes to Wasatch County was the construction of the Jordanelle Dam and Reservoir, which began June 1987 and was completed nearly six years later in April of 1993. Not only would the reservoir change the topography of the land, she would physically impact and shape the socioeconomic status of the Wasatch Back.
It is believed that Leonardo de Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.”
It also could be said that water is the driving force of development. Although the Jordanelle’s primary purpose was to provide culinary water to Wasatch, Utah and Salt Lake counties, her close proximity to Deer Valley also provides a unique opportunity for the development of a true year-round resort paradise.
This vision — shared by many land owners, developers, city officials, council members and Wasatch County citizens — is not shared by all. Many others have very different opinions on what they’d like to see for the basin area. Regardless of our differing views, it’s fairly safe to say that the “views” from our streets and surrounding mountain summits are changing rapidly. And these changes aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
The 30,000-Foot View
As we move forward, what does the future look like for Wasatch County; specifically, the areas that surround the Jordanelle?
To answer that question, let’s go for a quick aerial ride around the neighborhood…
It’s 2050 and we’re on a short, virtual flight out of the burgeoning Russ McDonald Air Field. Our destination? The airspace above the Jordanelle. I’ll be your flight attendant — so buckle in — as we may experience some turbulence.
As we ascend to the north, off to your right you will notice the 5,000-plus homes, schools, churches, businesses, trails and open space that make up the Sorenson properties. Continuing straight ahead, as we cross over the Jordanelle Dam, to the west is the Mayflower Mountain Resort with her nearly 1,500 luxury homes, city center, ski runs and lifts.
If you turn your head and look directly across U.S. Highway 40, you’ll see Mayflower Marina. Banking to our right, we see other resort-style communities such as Deer Crest, Deer Cove and Skyridge. As we circle to the south along the east shoreline of the Jordanelle, we pass the town of Hideout, the Tuhaye, Berg Ridge, Victory Ranch and Benloch Ranch communities, and make our way back to the Sorenson properties.
Of note: If each of these developments build out all of their entitled units, we would have flown over roughly 15,000 homes, numerous businesses, many hotels, several schools and churches, and other amenities like trails and trailheads, parking areas, gas stations, and — well, you get the picture.
Did the view make you want to jump from your seat and do a happy dance? Or did you feel like making good use of those small paper bags the airlines provide? Whatever your reaction to this glimpse into our future, there are a few things that you may or may not know about the developments happening now and those slated for the future.
First and foremost: It’s going to happen… and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Every one of those developments has been approved and entitled for years.
What does entitled mean? It means that Wasatch County approved the number of residential units, hotels, workforce housing, parking, businesses and all other structures and build-outs included in the developers’ master plans. This means that the backhoe you see on the side of the mountain was approved years ago to be where it is today.
It’s important to understand that we didn’t get here overnight. Everything concerning the dam, the reservoir and the land surrounding the Jordanelle has been in some type of planning phase for at least 40 years.
Back To Reality
Let’s drop our gaze from a futuristic bird’s-eye-view to a present-day ground level and take a tour around the Jordanelle. We begin with the big yellow machines and all the digging off U.S. Highway 40 that’s caused many to exclaim, “What the heck?!” Here’s what’s really happening on that mountainside.
According to Wasatch County Planner Doug Smith, “The majority of the excavation that you see happening up here is part of a VCP, or voluntary cleanup program, that the state has to approve. There are a lot of tailings and mine stuff up there that the VCP group volunteered to come in and cleanup. That’s the majority of it, but they are also excavating for a water tank that will be buried on the side of the mountain.”
That water tank is part of the infrastructure that Gary Barnett’s EXTELL Development Company is beginning to put in place for the Mayflower Mountain Resort.
You may have heard of this new resort in our back yard. What you may not know is that the Mayflower Mountain Resort is just one of a number of projects that are being developed on property once owned by Stichting Mayflower, an investment group from Holland.
In 1979, Stichting Mayflower purchased approximately 4,500 acres of land that stretches into Deer Valley’s Bald Mountain area and extends over to Guardsman Pass. In the early 1980s, the investment group began the process of planning, requesting approvals and seeking entitlements for various developments on its land. At this time, the Jordanelle Reservoir did not exist and the Bureau of Reclamation had yet to make a final decision on the reservoir itself.
According to Bill Coleman and Bob Theobald of Berkshire Hathaway, Stichting Mayflower had to turn in two plans; one with the reservoir and one without. It also had to receive approval from an outside firm, which was tasked to review all of the aspects of Stichting Mayflower’s master plan. The master plan, which included entitlements for 2,000 to 3,000 Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs), was approved and entitled in 1984 – 1985 by both the Wasatch County planning director and county commissioner.
Stichting Mayflower was not the only developer seeking approval in the 1980s, and in 1987 the construction of the Jordanelle Dam required that both U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Route 189 be rerouted and rebuilt. The newly-built U.S. Highway 40 added another layer to the already unique basin area.
Now, anyone from anywhere in the world could fly into the Salt Lake International Airport and drive straight to a world-class ski resort — with a newly-dammed, pristine body of water nearby, ready and waiting for investors to dive in. Land owners and developers did just that, taking advantage of the new development opportunities on all sides of the reservoir.
In the 1990s, entitlements were approved for several developments, including Benloch Ranch (originally Talisman) with 2,046 ERUs and Tuhaye with 900 units. In 2001, Victory Ranch was approved for 690 ERUs (though the land owners recently cut the density to 350 units) and Sorenson’s master plan was approved and entitled in 2007.
In 2014, Stichting Mayflower decided to sell its property. Coleman stated that three-quarters of the Mayflower property was sold to the aforementioned developer, Gary Barnett, in 2017. Barnett’s local EXTELL properties include: Pioch, a master-planned area owned by United Park City Mines; Blue Ledge, a ski in/ski out luxury residential condominium development; and the Mayflower Mountain Resort.
Utah’s Next Year-Round Resort
The Mayflower Mountain Resort will be the first full-service ski resort to be developed in the United States since 1980 when Beaver Creek opened in Colorado. Which is fitting, considering the vision for the basin area is to make it a year-round resort, similar to Vail and Aspen. Consisting of 5,600 acres, the resort will include luxury homes, condominiums, single-family homes, townhomes, 95,000-square-feet of employee housing, 250,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space, a 68,000-square-foot public recreation center, a performing arts center, an ice rink, five to seven lifts, 400 acres of ski runs located on the back side of Deer Valley Resort, the world’s largest ski beach and three hotels.
The Mayflower Resort is the first recreational project in Utah to work with the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA), and as such, the first hotel built will have 100 rooms reserved for military personnel, with a preferential rate based on rank. “The lower your rank, the lower your price,” said EXTELL Development Senior Vice President Kurt Kireg at a media gathering on August 12, 2019.
Building Up And Out
Now, let’s cross the street and head over to Marina West — too bad the portals aren’t built yet. Wait . . . what?
In the spring of 2020, construction will begin on portals near the Jordanelle Express Gondola and the wildlife portal near Mayflower. Doug Smith explained, “There will be four bridge structures; two south-bound and two north-bound, with daylight in the middle and pedestrian and vehicular access underneath. The idea is that you can have a transit that circulates through here without having to clog up the Mayflower intersection.”
The Mayflower Marina is the last piece of the original Mayflower property that is still owned by Stichting Mayflower. The land is approximately 160 acres with the potential to house 392 ERUs and various commercial property. State Road 319 runs through the acreage, dividing the property into two sections — Marina East and Marina West.
In 2015, Deer Cove was entitled for 865 ERUs on 87 acres. Located adjacent to U.S. Highway 40 and directly across the highway from the already existing ski in/ski out community of Deer Crest, Deer Cove will have direct on-site access to the gondola via the Deer Crest Portal. Deer Cove has the potential to be developed into a small community containing both single and multifamily units, condominiums, a club house, a hotel, commercial units, open space, and hiking and biking paths and trails.
Another possible plan for Deer Cove could include the development of a campus or corporate site. How Deer Cove will develop is still undecided; however, Deer Cove’s neighbor Skyridge has been decided.
Skyridge, which was part of the original Mayflower development approved and entitled in 1984, covers 678 acres on the northwest section of the Jordanelle and is entitled for 503 units. The community has various developments under the Skyridge umbrella; all with fun names like Orion, Ursa and Constellation. In keeping with the overall vision to create a year-round resort area surrounding the reservoir, Skyridge will house several resort-type amenities, including outdoor gathering spaces, a community park, a golf academy, an equestrian center, horseback riding trails, a club house, short-term lodging, a kiosk, two public trailheads and approximately seven miles of trails that will connect with Bureau of Reclamation trails around the Jordanelle.
Smith shared that there also has been some discussion regarding an improved day-use beach area with docks, pavilions and restrooms. The aforementioned clubhouse, equestrian center, golf academy, trail heads, kiosk, hiking and biking trails, and day-use beach will all be open to the public.
According to Smith, “None of this could have developed without the [Jordanelle] Parkway, because they would have been on a dead-end road. [The] county won’t allow dead end roads over 1,300 feet that don’t have a second access, so this has to be built, completed and accepted by the county before we issue building permits.”
The Jordanelle Parkway has been envisioned for 25-plus years. The parkway will connect the Mayflower Mountain Resort off of U.S. Highway 40 to State Route 248 at the Browns Canyon intersection and will include a 10-foot asphalt hiking and biking trail that runs parallel. The parkway is slated to be finished in the spring or summer of 2020. Which means, next year you could go for a stroll or ride your bike from Mayflower to the JOVID Mark Hotel.
On the east side of the basin, the town of Hideout recently received entitlements for 360 ERUs for two new developments: Deer Waters and Deer Springs. Berg Ridge, located east of Tuhaye, is a 180-acre subdivision development with 182 ERUs.
Tuhaye and Victory Ranch are both already well established and are continuing to build. Tuhaye, which recently purchased 400 acres, told the county it was not going to change its number of ERUs; it instead plans to spread its 900 units across more acreage.
“Victory Ranch went through a rezone of 6,000 acres and we are recording their last plat,” said Smith. “They are only around 350 units of their approved 690, but they said their owners wanted to cut back in density. With the higher-end projects, that’s what we are seeing now.”
Benloch Ranch also cut their ERUs from 2,046 to 1,827 on 2,335 acres, and is waiting for final plat approval for its first 30 units. Located on the south side of State Road 32 between Victory Ranch and the Sorenson properties, Benloch Ranch — like Skyridge — is intended to have a resort feel with a clubhouse, pool, restaurants, commercial amenities, backcountry trails and maybe even a zip line.
Speaking of — let’s zip on over to the Sorenson Properties. (Yahoo! We’re almost through!)
The Sorenson development is a massive project that has created a lot of discussion within Wasatch County, but today we’re just strolling by. The 9,000 acres that make up the Sorenson properties cover a good chunk of mountain range touching Benloch Ranch, Victory Ranch, Red Ledges and almost all the way down to U.S. Highway 40. The residential community of River View on the west side of State Road 32 is part of Phase I of the Sorenson master plan.
“Sorenson has the potential to be more primary residents than secondary, and if they are, then they should have services provided up there,” said Smith. “It’s what we call internal capture for traffic management, so within the development you should have school sites, library sites, fire stations, soccer and baseball fields, churches, grocery stores, gas stations; all those things. This way, everybody doesn’t have to get onto Highway 32 [sic]… they don’t have to drive into town to get a gallon of milk.” The Sorenson master plan reflects the same view.
Our Future, Together
Not the view you were expecting when we first started? Exactly the view you were expecting? What we are seeing today is the realization of a vision that has been carefully planned for over 35 years. I think Bill Coleman said it best, “These developments have real gravity, they are not fleeting, and they were not spontaneous.”
Just like any other living organism, if a community is not growing, it’s dying or dormant. There needs to be new nutrients that come and go — that change with time and growth. Wasatch County is growing and thriving and changing. Yes, it’s a little scary. Yes, it’s a little exciting.
What do we envision for our county’s future?
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” How our county and cities continue to change is for us to decide — so let’s do it together. After all, change is just a small word. Together, we can make a big impact.
As residents, our voices are important — they shape what the future of our county and cities will look like. Let your voice be heard. Be informed. Be involved. This is your county, your city, and your help is encouraged. Want to be part of the planning process? Join county or city council. Want to be involved but you’re not sure how? Visit Wasatch County’s website and scroll through the volunteer boards. Serving on county boards is a lot fun and you learn a ton. Do you love hiking and biking? Join the Wasatch Trails Foundation. There are a lot of places to get involved and things you can do to help shape your community.