Can growth and quality of life coexist? This valley in Utah is looking for answers

Cache Valley in northern Utah, home to the bustling college town of Logan but also more than a dozen rural and farming towns, is a microcosm of what’s out West.

Cache County is growing. Quickly. Last year, it ranked among the five fastest growing counties in Utah, which topped the nation for booming population growth over the past decade.

But perhaps even more intensely than the counties along the Wasatch Front, Cache County faces its own unique challenges as it grows.

Cache Valley fosters a highly agricultural identity, with a rich agricultural history. Even today, Cache remains Utah’s largest dairy producer. However, as its population has exploded, so has housing development, which puts enormous pressure on farmers and, for that matter, on the rest of the valley’s open space, even though the feeling of small town and countryside is probably what attracts people in the first place. .

Perhaps an incident from last fall best explains what’s going on in Cache Valley right now. Someone has defaced a sign for a multi-unit housing estate in Hyrum with the message: “Go away, we miss the horses.”

The River Bear flows past agricultural fields in Smithfield on Saturday March 26, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“Although there is never any justification for vandalism”, Marc Ensign of Paradise wrote for CacheValleyDaily.com“His message seems to capture the sentiment of many Valley residents who have found themselves in a wake of expansion they don’t like or understand.”

Concern and interest in the future of Cache County brought together longtime residents, large and small business owners, politicians and other community members on Tuesday for a discussion on where the valley from here.

The question on everyone’s mind: How does Cache County continue to grow and prosper while maintaining its quality of life and rural character?

For the discussion, the Deseret News and Utah Policy partnered with maloufa thriving lifestyle and wellness company based in Logan, to host a community forum titled “Lessons from Smart Growth.”

The forum at Malouf Headquarters included a panel discussion moderated by Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News Editor of Deseret News and Deputy Editor of Deseret News, between Sen. Chris Wilson, R-Logan; Noelle Cockett, president of Utah State University; Holly Daines, Mayor of Logan; and Sam Malouf, President and CEO of Malouf Companies.

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Sarah Jane Weaver, associate editor of Deseret News, left, moderates a panel discussion with Utah State Senator Chris Wilson, R-Logan; Holly H. Daines, Mayor of Logan; Noelle E. Cockett, president of Utah State University; and Sam Malouf, Co-Founder and CEO of Malouf Companies and President of the Malouf Foundation, at a community forum in Logan on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. The forum was presented by Deseret News and Malouf Companies.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Cockett said Utah State University, home of the Aggies, currently has more than 17,000 students in Logan, giving the city its reputation as a college town that earned it. many national lists. The young student population has helped Logan and Cache County grow, but it’s also led to neighborhood disputes, “especially when we’re recruiting from out of state,” Cockett said.

But Cockett said she “loves” being able to call Logan a “college town.” It conveys something that not all places have. This signals a community.

She also noted that some USU students may not have plans to stay in Cache Valley, but many do.

“People may come because of the university, but they fall in love with this place,” Cockett said. “Beauty attracts them, but people keep them.”

Malouf, an Aggie himself, said it’s the people who make Cache County unique. “People are special here,” he said. “People care a lot here, and I think people want to work here.”

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Logan Mayor Holly H. Daines, left, and Utah State University President Noelle E. Cockett, center, listen to Sam Malouf, co-founder and CEO of Malouf Companies and chairman of the Malouf Foundation, at a community forum with Logan residents, business owners and leaders in Logan on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. The forum was presented by Deseret News and Malouf.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Wilson, a third-generation local business owner and auto dealer, agreed that the people of Cache make it special. But thriving local businesses also provide “wonderful opportunities with well-paying jobs” that allow residents to take care of their families.

Still, Cache Valley faces many challenges, panelists said, especially in today’s hot housing market, with prices skyrocketing across the state, especially over the past two last years. Logan and the rest of the county have not been immune to this cost spike.

“I think it’ll mend itself over time, but right now it’s pretty acute,” Cockett said.

Daines, the mayor of Logan, said that unless Logan and Cache Valley “get denser” and make better use of its infrastructure, “we’re going to expand into our beautiful valley and lose what we treasure.”

The question, Daines said, is “How do we do this?” especially when so many residents oppose the development. The mayor noted that while Logan has seen its fair share of “outsiders” moving in, the majority of the town’s growth in recent years has come “from our own children and grandchildren.”

“If we want places to live, we need to think carefully about how we zone our communities,” Daines said, noting that Logan town leaders decided it made sense to have higher density. in the city center.

“Those are the key issues,” she said. “We need to densify so as not to expand on our beautiful agricultural land.”

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Makayla Hill hikes a trail above North Logan on Saturday, March 26, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Cache County’s rich recreational opportunities — with Beaver Mountain and Cherry Peak ski resorts and numerous hiking and biking trails — are also a big draw that must be preserved, Daines said.

Conversations are in play to decide “how do we keep some of this open space, this quality of life? And that’s something we’re probably going to have to pay for,” the mayor said. She added that Cache County residents need to start asking themselves, “What do I appreciate, and do I appreciate enough that I’m willing to pay something?”

In an interview with the Deseret News after Tuesday’s roundtable, Daines said a group of community leaders were exploring the possibility of putting a retention requirement on the ballot. She said it is too early to say how much bail would be or what areas would be preserved.

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Logan Mayor Holly H. Daines speaks at a community forum with Logan residents, business owners and Logan leaders Tuesday, March 29, 2022, as President of the University of State of Utah, Noelle E. Cockett, center, and Sam Malouf, co-founder and CEO of Malouf Enterprises and president of the Malouf Foundation, okay, listen up. The forum was presented by Deseret News and Malouf.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“In the next few weeks they will be releasing a poll just to gauge audience interest,” she said. “It’s like, ‘OK, is it worth giving up pizza and movie night for your family in order to (preserve the open space).’ … Again, we all appreciate it, but how do you keep it?

In addition, the county does not lack “water problems“said Wilson, which intensified as the West remains caught in a generational drought.

After the meeting, David ZookCache County executive, expressed appreciation for the discussion.

“Sometimes we feel like we’ve been forgotten, we’re a little off the Wasatch front,” Zook said, “but we feel like something good is happening here.”

In addition to the effort to study a possible holding bond, Zook told the Deseret News that he plans to launch a task force focused on the housing crisis in the coming weeks.

“We have about two dozen leaders from a variety of industries, we have people advocating for the homeless, we also have homebuilders and real estate agents and people in education,” Zook said. . “We have a good sample of prospects that we are gathering.”

He said the task force would be asked to spend 60 days to come up with recommendations at multiple levels.

“What can cities do? What can the state do? With what do we have to go to our federal delegation? What should we tell our fellow citizens? What should the private sector do? he said. “We are going to look for solutions that can solve our housing crisis here because we have a major problem.”

Five years ago, Zook said the average home price in Cache County was around $230,000. Now it’s $450,000.

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