Throughout the world, people want the same things: access to clean air and water; economic opportunities; a safe and healthy place to raise their kids; shelter; lifelong learning; a sense of community; and the ability to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
What is Smart Growth?
Smart Growth America defines Smart Growth as “an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement.” They envision a country that “no matter where you live, or who you are, you can enjoy living in a place that is healthy, prosperous, and resilient.”
Conserve Southwest Utah agrees wholeheartedly with Smart Growth America’s approach to development and its vison of what a livable community should offer. Our emphasis in Smart Growth is on “smart,” and not on growth. We know that growth will continue in our region because of the many factors that make it a desirable place to live. Preserving the quality of life that we value as we grow is the challenge.
Smart Growth Principles
We adopted the following ten Smart Growth Principles from Smart Growth America, with some modifications to fit our locality. These 10 principles represent the core of what CSU believes must be the basis for growth in southwest Utah.
- Mix Land Uses. Enable the building of homes, offices, schools, parks, shops, restaurants, and other types of development near one another—on the same block or even within the same building.
- Compact Design. Take advantage of compact design, growing up and not out, with higher densities and infill development.
- Housing Choice. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices for all incomes and ages.
- Walkable Neighborhoods. Encourage walking by mixing land uses, taking advantage of compact development, and designing streets that make walking and biking practical, safe, and convenient.
- Unique Sense of Place. Foster a distinctive, attractive community with a strong sense of place by incorporating natural features, historic structures, and public art.
- Preserve Critical Lands. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, viewsheds, and critical environmental areas.
- Direct Development Inward. Support development that takes advantage of existing infrastructure rather than developing on previously undeveloped land.
- Transportation Choices. Provide multi-modal transportation for all ages and abilities and incentives for using public transit.
- Fairness to Developers. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective for developers.
- Stakeholder Collaboration. Invite ideas and critiques from community members to make development inclusive and equitable.
From our founding in 2006 CSU has advocated for smart growth as defined by Vision Dixie, the county-wide planning exercise carried out in 2006 as growth was accelerating in southwest Utah. Over 3,000 people participated in Vision Dixie, attending dozens of meetings with public officials to express their preference for how and where growth should occur.
The ten principles resulting from Vision Dixie look a lot like the Smart Growth principles listed above, with two notable exceptions. Vision Dixie did not include principles calling for government to involve developers, community members, and other stakeholders as collaborators in smart development. Another oversight of Vision Dixie was its failure to include an implementation strategy, with a timeline and accountability measures for government compliance with its principles. With no roadmap in place, hopes of general implementation of Vision Dixie evaporated when the housing market crashed in the Great Recession of 2008.
Smart Growth in Southwest Utah
Despite the failure of widespread implementation of Vision Dixie, there has been some progress on Smart Growth in southwest Utah. Links to a few examples are listed below.