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Murray Journal

Q&A with Murray’s new planning chief Jared Hall

Apr 03, 2022 04:55PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Community and Economic Director Jared Hall motions to the audience at a recent city council meeting. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

It’s a hard gig leading the Community & Economic Development department in Murray. With the city going through a momentous transformative period—the tension between developers and residents is fraught. Standing in the middle is the city’s CED Department. Mayor Brett Hales appointed within its ranks Jared Hall to replace outgoing CED Director Melinda Greenwood, who left for Kaysville after two years on the job.

A seven-year veteran of the department, Hall served as the Planning Division Manager and has had a prominent role in the city’s hearings regarding significant projects and the future of Murray. With his promotion, he takes on the added tasks of working with the Murray City Redevelopment Agency and economic development.

Hall agreed to answer a few questions from the Murray Journal to learn more about the leader responsible for guiding Murray through this changing time.

What is the biggest thing you have been involved with program- or project-wise?

It’s difficult to pick out a single program or project. I’ve been part of some large mixed-use developments, commercial projects, and some large, planned subdivisions over the years. The thing is, I believe that the “biggest” things that a planner like me is involved with are things that will generate slow, incremental change over time. I’ve been part of the creation and adoption of three general plans, small area plans, and lots of ordinance work to take zoning from exclusionary forms toward more traditional and mixed-use development patterns. I’ve tried to advocate for affordable housing and sustainable development as well, and that’s been very important to me. Projects—even big ones—come no matter what. What informs those projects is what matters most to the community, and that’s what this is all about. The biggest and most important programs and projects are still to come.

What new initiatives or programs are you seeking to do while serving as director?

I’d like to explore more possibilities with the RDA (redevelopment agency). We need to find ways to increase the community’s access to opportunities, not just for entertainment and employment but for basic services like housing, groceries and childcare. The purpose and result of a city’s efforts at economic development should be better, more complete community development. To support the best goals that Murray set in the General Plan, we need to shift focus to more long-range planning; and as a part of that effort, I also hope we can explore public outreach options so that more people in the community are involved in community development.

Some Murray residents have expressed that it does not seem to be attracting restaurants and stores like Taylorsville, Holladay, and West Jordan have been. What will you do differently than your predecessor to build Murray’s economic base?

I have to say that I’m not sure I agree with that, because there are always new, interesting restaurants and shops opening in and around the Fashion Place Mall, for example. We do hear a lot from people in the community that they’d like to see more unique, local businesses in Murray, and I want to explore things that we can do to foster that. I’d like to see us working closely with Murray’s Chamber of Commerce to support local and regional entrepreneurs with interesting ideas. Realistically, in order to maintain and grow Murray’s economic base, we need to embrace the changes in commercial, retail, and office that are happening all the time and are out of our control. In general, commercial is smaller, more targeted, and more experience-based. We need to focus on creating opportunities and reasons for reinvestment in Murray’s commercial properties.   

There has been controversy regarding mixed-use projects in Murray, which you have been caught in the middle of at times. In planning meetings, people have commented that you are a proponent of high-density projects. What would be your response to them?

Mixed-use is a complicated topic, and I think we have to be careful not to simply reduce it to high-density housing. Residential density is important to support the purpose of mixed uses: development that is more compact, more walkable, and less dependent on cars. Because of all that, mixed-use projects will produce less traffic, fewer parking issues, and use less resources overall as well. The result is a more vibrant, sustainable development pattern. It is always important, though, to remember that mixed uses don’t necessarily belong everywhere, and that the scale of that development needs to match the context. I believe that we should support higher-density, mixed-use projects where there is good access to transit but less intense development where that access is more limited. For example, allowing mixed uses may encourage reinvestment in aging, neighborhood-scaled shopping centers by allowing some residential uses on the site but they need to be appropriate in density and integrated with the commercial. Getting that balance right and making sure the scale and scope is sensitive to the context is the key. I know that not everyone wants to live in a mixed-use development, but plenty of people do, and such a project done correctly could benefit everyone. The owner of the property gets to reinvest, the existing commercial tenants see increased use of the site, new homes are created for people who want to live there, and the community around it benefits because of the improvements to a place where they already shop and spend time.

A frequent complaint about the Murray City Center District has been what people have seen as a lack of communication to what people want to see downtown. What are your views on the downtown project? What can Murray residents expect as far as communication goes with your department?

I believe that we should open channels of communication wherever possible. It’s unfortunate when people don’t feel like they know what’s happening or that they’re being shut out of the conversation. I believe that redevelopment of the downtown area should be an imperative, and the community’s participation in any project, but especially something like the city’s downtown, needs to be encouraged. I know the people working in this department with me always try to be available to talk about issues with the citizens as much as we can. I don’t think everyone has to agree all the time, but it’s important to me that everyone who wants to be part of the conversation has an opportunity to do that. Staff here has been and will always be willing to answer questions and take feedback on things any time. Call, email, drop in—whatever works for you. We have been talking for a while now about ways to better connect with the larger community. We are open to ideas on that subject, and we’re actively looking for ways to boost involvement and conversation.