Mayor Palmer reflects on first year in officeJan 05, 2023 12:38PM ● By Justin Adams
One year ago, when Lorin Palmer was getting ready to take on the office of Herriman mayor, it was easy to see the challenges in front of him. COVID-19 had much more of an impact on our lives than it does today. The County Council had just approved the development of Olympia Hills against the wishes of most local residents and elected leaders. And, Palmer would be replacing a mayor who had drawn scandal to city hall multiple times, so much so that at one point the rest of the city council had called on him to resign.
Palmer burst onto the scene as the lead organizer of the ‘Herriman for Responsible Growth’ group, which campaigned against the Olympia Hills development, though that wasn’t necessarily his top issue upon entering office. On his campaign website, Palmer listed “unity through community” and “improving quality of life for residents” as the first two points of his campaign platform, followed by his position on housing.
That seems fitting for how Palmer’s first year in office has gone. While the issue of striking the right balance of housing types and densities certainly hasn’t gone away within the Herriman community, it hasn’t dominated online discussion in the community in the same way it has in previous years.
Unity Through Community
It’s not hard to see that creating community connections is important to Palmer.
“The job of mayor… It is what you put into it,” he told the Herriman Journal. “I could spend a minimum amount of time and still be fulfilling my responsibilities. I like to be involved with as much as possible. I want to be face-to-face with people.”
Indeed, you can find Palmer at all the big one-time events of the year like Fort Herriman Town Days or the Herriman Howl, but you could also find him at the Herriman Food Truck Night on a weekly basis this summer, chatting with residents.
Palmer also started a weekly tradition of meeting with residents over lunch. It started rather informal: an invitation to any residents who work from home to join the mayor for lunch at a select local restaurant. In the beginning, the weekly event drew a handful of attendees each week. But the event grew over the year, culminating in a lunch at Garage Grill in December that brought out 60 people and also doubled as a donation drive for the Utah Refugee Connection.
Palmer said the event has been great for bringing out people who might not otherwise have become involved in the community.
“There’s rarely a week that there’s not someone new who comes and wants to get involved in the city,” he said.
Another way that Palmer, along with the rest of the council and city staff, have tried to make city government more accessible to residents is with social media videos recapping the most recent city council meeting.
“If we’re being honest, very few residents are going to get on and watch an entire council meeting. Our average meeting length this year is probably four to four and a half hours and that is a lot to sit through,” Palmer told the Herriman Journal earlier this year.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the council also started a new event this year called ‘Cookies and Connections.’ For one evening, a contingency of elected officials and city staff set up shop at a park within the city and invite residents to come out and ask them any questions they have about what’s going on in the city. Oh, and they give out free cookies, too.
“The first thing we wanted to do as a council is get out more in the community and get more involved. Not everybody can come to city council meetings, but it’s our job to pick up the table and come to the residents. And this is more engagement than we get at council meetings,” he said.
Improving Quality of Life
Herriman City has seen a lot of improvements to ‘quality of life’ in 2022, chief among them being an acceleration of new businesses coming to the city.
When he came into office, Palmer told the Herriman Journal that one of his top priorities was to leverage his position as mayor to go out and recruit businesses to come to Herriman.
“I’ve been told that it just means more when someone with the title of mayor comes into a business owner’s office to negotiate,” he said.
That appears to have been a good strategy, based on the number of new businesses that opened their doors in Herriman last year. (Some of these businesses were, or may have already been planning to open in Herriman before Palmer took office.)
Garage Grill finally satisfied the city’s cries for a large sit-down restaurant. The opening of Lee’s Marketplace made it a lot easier for residents of the city’s south side to get their grocery shopping done. The Anthem Commercial Center continues to expand with additions like the Mexican restaurant, La Fountain. And although these businesses aren’t in Herriman boundaries (and thus don’t help the city out when it comes to its tax base), residents have surely appreciated the opening of a nearby Costco and a Cinemark movie theater just across the border in Riverton.
The most exciting developments for the city’s commercial business, however, could yet be on the horizon.
“The automall master development agreements are finally done. There are three car dealers committed,” Palmer said. “There is a commercial development coming in on Mountain View Corridor and 13400 S. Anthem will probably be full in the next year. We have Slackwater Pizza coming in as well as an indoor trampoline park. It’s filling in around the new Lee’s Marketplace.
Business is booming in Herriman.”
Another facet of ‘quality of life’ that Herriman has improved this year is in its parks and trails. The K9 Memorial Dog Park opened at the beginning of the year and has quickly become one of the most popular dog parks in the valley. In November, the first phase of the 72-acre Juniper Canyon recreation area opened.
In April, it was announced that Salt Lake County would be working with Rio Tinto to develop over 100 miles of new hiking and mountain biking trails in the Oquirrh Mountains, including Rose, Yellow Fork and Butterfield canyons. Add those to Herriman’s existing trails in the hills to the south as well as the trails that cut through the city, like the Rose Creek and Midas Creek Trails, and it’s not hard to glimpse a future where Herriman becomes one of the state’s top destinations for all kinds of trail users.
Housing, Growth and Infrastructure
Already one of, if not the fastest growing cities in Utah, Herriman continues to add housing everywhere you look. The first houses in the Mountain Ridge and Teton Ranch developments popped up this year. And according to Palmer, the infrastructure for the first phases of the Olympia development is set to begin in the coming months.
While some potential first-time home buyers are likely excited to see the housing supply increase, many residents also have concerns over how this growth will impact things like traffic or classroom sizes. For elected officials who are bound to work within the deals and agreements signed by their predecessors, there’s often not much they can do besides work to proactively address those potential negative impacts. A big part of that is improving infrastructure throughout the city.
One important development in that regard is the transfer of ownership of 12600 S. Expected to become the busiest thoroughfare in the city as Olympia Hills develops, the road will incur higher and higher costs to maintain. Roads with regional importance are often acquired by the state to be managed by UDOT, rather than by the local municipality in which the road resides. Such is the case with 12600 S., as Herriman was able to negotiate its transfer to the state this year.
Palmer has also been working to lobby the Utah Transit Authority to bring more public transportation options to the southwest corner of the valley. There are no bus routes in Herriman, which means residents have one option when it comes to traveling outside the city: cars. Adding a few bus routes could be one way to get at least a few cars off of Herriman’s busy roads.
Perhaps the biggest potential impact of residential growth is what it can do to a city’s budget. From a city government perspective, it costs more money to provide services to residential developments than they bring in in property taxes. If that imbalance isn’t offset by a strong commercial tax base, it can lead to steep increases in property taxes. Luckily for Herriman residents, it looks like the city’s commercial development is keeping up for now.
“We didn’t raise taxes this year,” Palmer said. “A lot of entities around us did. And we don’t foresee having to do that anytime soon.”