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WEST VALLEY CITY

By Patricia Lyn Scott
West Valley City is Utah's second largest city. On 26 February 1980 an incorporation vote was held for an unincorporated section of western Salt Lake County. By a scant ninety-vote margin incorporation as West Valley City was approved for portions of Granger, Hunter, and Chesterfield. Almost immediately a petition drive was started for a disincorporation vote. In May, petitions signed by 7,787 residents were filed with the Salt Lake County Clerk and a disincorporation vote was scheduled for 8 July, seven days after the city was scheduled to go into operation. Since the name West Valley City was seen as too cumbersome, a seven member committee was appointed to select a name for the new city. The Committee's choice of "Oquirrh City" was determined to be more awkward and it was decided to retain the original name of West Valley City.

On 1 July 1980 the city's new officials were sworn in, with Henry H. Price as mayor and Renee W. MacKay and Jerry L. Wagstaff as city commissioners. West Valley City was begun with no money, with borrowed equipment and personnel, and housed in a converted warehouse; in addition, it faced a disincorporation vote within a week. Since no financial institution would lend the new city funds, city officials were forced to pay for gasoline for the city's police cars with personal funds. On 8 July, the disincorporation vote failed by a margin of over 2,500 votes.

Settlement began in the western area in the fall of 1848, when Joseph Harker became the first white man to settle the west side of the Jordan River, probably near present-day 600 West and 3300 South. Within a year, seven other families had moved into the area. In 1853, the settlers built a fort with thick walls of rock and adobe to protect themselves against possible Indian attack. Until the 1880s settlement was relatively slow in the western part of the county. From 1890 to 1900, however, the population increased by 79 percent as compared to 19 percent for Salt Lake City and an average of 33 percent for the state.

Though the population steadily grew in the western section of Salt Lake County, it remained largely agricultural until the 1960s. Development progressed haphazardly. Subdivisions were built without sidewalks, gutters, and landscaping. By 1978 the population had increased to 72,000, and increasing service problems and perceived county indifference provoked residents to action. Some believed incorporation was the solution.

In 1978, the first incorporation vote failed, but the second vote held in 1980 succeeded. Since West Valley City was born more or less already full grown, it was confronted with a wide range of problems. At incorporation, West Valley City immediately became Utah's third largest city. Most city watchers doubted its survival and predicted its early demise. Others proclaimed its incorporation heralded the incorporation of all unincorporated sections of Salt Lake County. Neither prediction has proved true.

West Valley City celebrated its first decade by moving into a newly constructed and fully paid for city hall which replaced the totally inadequate remodeled warehouse. As the city began its second decade it boasted a population of 86,976, a 19.5 percent increase from 1980. By 1990 West Valley City was gaining respect both as a residential area and as a home for business and industry, with 25 percent of its area residential, 11 percent agricultural, 4 percent commercial, 1 percent parks, and 38 percent undeveloped.