Saratoga Springs works on development deal to keep state prison out of town

Posted at 9:42 PM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-09 23:42:20-05

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah -- There was only one item on the agenda at the Saratoga Springs city council meeting Tuesday night: how to keep a state prison out of the city.

Since the State Prison Relocation Commission announced the city was one of six areas that could be the home of the new state prison, city officials have been working to quickly finalize another development deal.

The land’s owners include Josh Romney, son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Romney’s partners at Western States Ventures.

“The city staff approached Western and said, ‘We really would like you to be in Saratoga Springs and we would really like to not have a prison here,’” said Bruce Baird, attorney for the company.

That conversation put a residential development deal on the fast track.

Within the nearly 500 acres the Commission is considering for the prison, Western States Ventures proposed to instead build approximately 1,800 homes.

The land is located between Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain and Camp Williams.

With the commission’s decision’s looming, they city had to move quickly.

On the night before the Commission announced its short list of locations last week, the city accepted a petition for annexation from Western States Ventures.

“We have spent the last three days living and breathing these documents for tonight,” said Saratoga Springs Mayor Jim Miller.

By Tuesday’s meeting, they were able to move forward. They unanimously voted to approve a pre-annexation plan.

While the process traditionally moves more slowly, they felt they had enough information to justify the approval, given the risk of losing the land to a prison.

“This is good for Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain,” Miller said. “People want jobs and businesses here.”

Western States Ventures will send a formal request to the Commission Wednesday, asking to be removed from their list of possible prison locations.

While the commission could deny the request, city officials believe it’s unlikely.  As part of new criteria for considering locations, the Commission has said any pending economic development projects in a city could disqualify it.