Traffic studies in Thanksgiving Point area show impending failure
Lehi City asks Thanksgiving Point to rework area plan
In the spring of 1995, the Fox family sold their 400+ acre dairy farm in the northwest part of Lehi to WordPerfect co-founder Alan Ashton and his wife, Karen. It was conjectured that the Ashton family would carry on the dairy operation, but seven years later, Lehi City approved the area plan for Thanksgiving Point. This was a dream come true for the Ashtons. For visitors, the Planned Resort Community would create “wholesome family activities designed to educate, beautify and provide opportunities for learning and discovery in agriculture, horticulture, paleontology, shopping, dining, food preparation, animal life, the arts and recreation” (section of narration in area plan document).
Janys Hutchings, Lehi City Planning Commission member during the approval process of the Thanksgiving Point area plan said, “I remember thinking, ‘This is a great idea.’” Lehi City staff and the planning commission approved the Thanksgiving Point Resort Community (RC) designation in 2003.
According to the Lehi City planning manual, “a Resort Community is a cohesive and complimentary mixture of land uses, including commercial, residential, recreational, and/or business park. A Resort Community shall largely include facilities and venues that have a destination orientation and encourage use by tourists and visitors from outside the City. Uses should focus on services for tourists, visitors, and the local community.” (Lehi City Development Code page 28-1)
In a work session held by Lehi City staff and Lehi City Council on August 7, Mayor Mark Johnson brought to the attention of the Council a situation related to traffic issues at Thanksgiving Point. After many months of traffic research done by several entities commissioned by MAG, UDOT, Wasatch Regional Planning Commission and North County Transportation Committee, it was discovered that in the next several years a complete traffic failure will occur at Thanksgiving Point.
The news came after a proposed connector road from Mountain View Corridor through Porter Rockwell Drive, and Thanksgiving Point Golf Course, was voted down by Utah County mayors in the Mountainland Association of Governments, (MAG). Approximately 65 Lehi citizens from a residential area west of the golf course at Thanksgiving Point voiced opposition to the proposed road at a MAG meeting. With that vote, Lehi City lost 90% of the $9.1 million in MAG funds earmarked for the proposed road construction.
“The research associated with traffic studies indicated frightening numbers,” said Mayor Mark Johnson in an interview on August 16 conducted by the Lehi Free Press. “That is 40% more traffic than anticipated. The studies showed there are 70,000 trips per day, 20,000 more than was planned,” continued Johnson. “We will not kick the can down the road. We can’t shut our eyes and think that some future administration will take care of it. New mistakes don’t take care of old mistakes.”
“Thanksgiving Point is overbuilt,” Johnson told Lehi City Council members. “Residential [development]was planned for 358,000 square feet. It is now 990,000 sq. feet. Commercial and office has flipped. They are way over [planned square footage] in office space,” added Johnson.
Hutchings, in looking back said, “The concept of Thanksgiving Point has gradually changed. We maybe were idealistic in how it would all work out. I know the City has wanted the development to be successful and who would have anticipated what has happened in the area in the last 15 years?”
In the LFP interview, Johnson said, “Density and traffic are the big problems at Thanksgiving Point. We will work with all entities to solve this situation. We have instructed Thanksgiving Point to re-do their area plan. We will work in good faith and move forward on the correct path,” added Johnson.