Wasatch County Boom: What The Future Holds For Heber City
Utah is known for its red rocks, ski resorts, and diversified ecosystem. Vacationers come from across the world hoping to take in everything the one-of-a-kind state offers. What’s not surprising is that many of these people are planting long-term roots afterward, making places in Utah home to some of the fastest growing communities in the country, including Wasatch County.
Heber City, Wasatch County’s county seat, is the fastest growing micropolitan area in the United States according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2018 report. Concurrently Wasatch County is the third fastest growing county in the country. Both have experienced a 5 percent growth since 2017.
Utah’s state population is now over 3.1 million, according to the Utah Population Committee, a state-run group that uses local data to estimate the population for the U.S. Census Bureau.
This surge in numbers has homebuilders around the state on their toes. To keep up with the influx of new residents, hundreds of new homes are getting built every year. “Our business has doubled in the past few years,” says Kenny Anderson, owner of Highland Custom Homes, an award-winning home builder serving Wasatch County. “We have seen a dramatic number of homeowners looking to build in Heber, Promontory Point, and other neighborhoods around Wasatch County. It’s been discovered, and a large portion of our business is now directed at that part of the mountain.”
Along with homebuilders, county officials are developing new transportation and other county land use options.
But what draws so many people to Wasatch County? Kelleen Potter, Heber City Mayor and Ryan Starks, Executive Director of the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce give their take on the growth and what they see happening for Wasatch County residents in the future.
Q: Why do you feel that so many people are deciding that Heber is the right place for them to live? Why now?
Dir. Starks: People are flocking to the Heber Valley due to its quality of life. The air is cleaner here, and our access to outdoor recreation is unrivaled. People have also discovered that our businesses are strong and provide most things that people need. Finally, the proximity to Salt Lake and Provo is very quick and convenient. This population boom started just after the 2002 Winter Olympics and has remained steady since that time.
Mayor Potter: I think it is a combination of factors causing growth pressure in Heber City. First, it is simply an incredible place to live by many measures. When people are looking for a beautiful, family-friendly community with access to so many opportunities Heber fits the criteria. The economy is strong and there is tremendous growth, both internal and external, in Utah generally, so Heber is experiencing the effects of that also.
Q: What does the population influx look like? Are the people moving in coming from a specific industry background, economic class, or have some other defining characteristic?
Dir. Starks: The population influx includes a mix of retirees and young families. The majority of the people are coming from other places in Utah, but a healthy percentage of new move-ins are also coming from California and Texas. Many people who’ve visited the Wasatch Back have decided to make their home in the Heber Valley.
Mayor Potter: I don’t have official data about the people moving in, but my observations would suggest we are getting a good mix of people. I would guess the thing they have most in common is a love for the outdoors and a desire to live near great skiing, mountain biking, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. The clean air and beautiful surroundings are also a big draw.
Q: How do you feel the population growth has impacted the city, specifically concerning business growth, housing development, and resource management?
Dir. Starks: The population growth has caused the city and county to evaluate its future and to plan for even more citizens. Growth is challenging, but it also brings new opportunities. More businesses are coming to Heber Valley as a result of the population increase. This enables more people to work in the community instead of commuting to other areas for work. With so many people wanting to live here, the demand for housing has increased to the point where affordable housing is quite limited. City leaders are working on addressing affordable housing issues.
Mayor Potter: The growth has brought a lot of business development and thus increased sales tax revenue. Naturally, many new homes are being built and a high demand for more. We are facing some affordable housing issues with the prices growing quickly, and the inventory in the lower price ranges very limited.
Q: How do you envision the future growth of the city of Heber? How do you feel this vision is impacting people’s decision to move there?
Dir. Starks: The future of the Heber Valley looks bright–if our leaders create and stick to a clear plan. One of the key aspects to maintaining the charm of the Heber Valley is to preserve enough open space that generations to come will appreciate. Ultimately, 68 percent of Wasatch County is public land which means the state parks and the national forest land are here to stay. The abundance of recreation land will ensure that Heber Valley remains a very desirable place to live, work, and play.
Mayor Potter: We are currently embarking on updating our general plan – Heber Vision 2050. This will be a community effort to define that vision for our future while we are facing many decisions that will determine what Heber looks like in the future. We haven’t really communicated a coherent vision for the future, yet I doubt that is part of the equation people are considering as they decide to move here. I do think people love what Heber is right now and are hopeful about the future and the communities desire to maintain the things that make us unique.
After talking with Mayor Potter and Director Starks, it’s easy to see that the future is bright for Wasatch County residents. Add in the outdoor beauty and well-known attractions including Olympic Park and renowned ski resorts such as Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley, and you can understand why the area is growing so rapidly. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.