Monday, November 27, 2006

What a View...For Me!

Gotten rather busy with work and family being around for Thanksgiving, etc., so I haven't blogged much lately. I did take some time on Thanksgiving morning to go and hike the land that has been at the center of the dispute between the City of North Salt Lake and Salt Lake City and County (see stories here and here). As much tramping around the hills as I do, I have not hiked this area (not in recent memory, anyway. I did tramp some of this area years and years ago when I was an intern with Davis County, long before Eaglewood Golf Course and all its surrounding development were ever even thought of.)

No question, this is a great area. The views are fantastic! Given the rapid pace of development in Davis County and all along the Wasatch Front, it is nice to have some areas that stay undeveloped. But...but, to some degree, it does strike me as more of the Gangplank syndrome (you know, "I'm aboard, now hoist up the gangplank and don't let anyone else on board!") There are large, beautiful homes on this benchland in both North Salt Lake and in Salt Lake City. I suspect much of the drive to keep the remaining benchland undeveloped comes from these homeowners -- a great way to have some (almost) private places to run and walk your dog (both of which I saw while I was tramping the area on Thanksgiving.)

Now let's turn the pancake again -- I understand this land was acquired years ago by North Salt Lake City either for its water rights or for watershed protection. If that was the case, then why not keep such publicly owned land undeveloped?

It cuts both ways on this one. It's just interesting to see a couple of governmental entities fighting each other over powers that each would absolutely die for if the shoe were on the other foot.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Connection Land Use and Transportation

Stories in the DesNews and the Trib this weekend about the Wasatch Vision 2040 plan, developed by Envision Utah as the first step in updating the regional long-range transportation plans for the Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Mountainlands Association of Governments. The plan updates this time around are attempting to make solid connections between the cause-and-effect relationship of land use patterns and what the subsequent transportation system will need to be. It makes intuitive sense that judicious land use and help reduce the size and scope of transportation systems that may be needed, if we can find ways to keep people close to home for work and daily needs.

A couple of the more interesting websites (of the many that are now out there) about this connection between land use and transportation can be found here and here.

The difficult part will be in convincing independent self-governing communities that they may need to make some modifications to the way they allow development, to help in the overall regional picture. It's just a lot easier to let somebody else allow for that higher density development, or that mixed-use area with dwellings near offices and services. The report from Envision Utah is meant to serve as a guide to the kinds of actions communities can take to get us closer to the better picture -- but it will take a concerted education effort to even make communities aware of these options.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Where There is No Vision, The People Perish"

Interesting story on the New West website, about the most recent attempt in Oregon to reinvigorate the public about planning and vision. Many were concerned that it had been more than a generation since the remarkable public support of the 1970's when Oregon's unique planning system was conceived and implemented. Since that time, the vision got lost in the mechanics of day-to-day work and the poorly explained reasoning behind land use decisions.

Oregon planners, through the Oregon APA chapter, attempted for several years to get a new, broad-based visioning effort going, but it too has become mired in technical details rather than taking a new, sweeping look at statewide visions and goals. The ultimate repudiation happened in 2004, when voters passed Measure 37, halting and even reversing much of what earlier Oregonians had been trying to accomplish.

Where are we at in Utah? Do we have broad-based visioning and support? Envision Utah has surely done much to help us get there, but it has been ten years. Time to reinvigorate and re-establish that vision. Some of that effort is currently underway in Washington County with the Vision Dixie effort, something that deserves support and encouragement.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pay to Learn

Story last week in the DesNews about the efforts of school districts, some cities and citizens to get the state legislature to authorize impact fees for schools.

I have long thought if cities, counties and special districts can use impact fees to help build necessary new infrastructure, schools should be allowed the same. But given the atmosphere we've been in over the past couple of years regarding development issues in the legislature, it may be suicide to bring those fees up now. Impact fees have been subject to a lot of displeasure and threats by certain legislators, at one point a few years ago nearly losing them. The fees were saved when certain accomodations were made, with the implicit understanding that they would be left alone. So to have them brought up now again may endanger the fees the fees in general. We'll have to see, as this effort is not being led by local governments but by the school districts.

Envision Utah founding chair Robert Grow has raised another interesting issue with regard to school impact fees: by allowing them to be implemented, are we sending the message that paying for education is up to all those new people, that long-time residents have only a minimal role in helping to provide education? Some interesting implications and thoughts here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hi, Ho, SkyBridge!

Stories in this morning's Trib and DesNews about the proposed skybridge for the City Creek Center. Taubman says it is critical to their project, and I can see that that may be the case to tie the upper levels of the development together. However, there is a long-standing aversion to skybridges in the Salt Lake psyche, partly because of our desire to protect the views of the mountains. We also have much wider streets than many of the downtowns that have them, which adds to that desire.

I actually opined on skybridges over a year ago, which I think is still relevant to the current discussion. See that commentary here.

I tend to agree with the quote by Bob Bliss in one of the news stories, what's the rush? We have time to work through this issue, the plans for the City Creek Center are still have not been presented in detail. Let's work through this and get most everyone on the same track.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Property Rights Measures Fail - Except for Arizona

In the spirit of yesterday's elections, I took a quick look around the western states that had Measure 37 clones on their ballots this November. It seems that all have failed, except in Arizona.

The most-watched one was in Washington state, where a strong property-rights movement worked hard to emulate the actions of their sister state Oregon. The Seattle Times reports, however, that the measure was soundly defeated, losing by a landslide in all the Puget Sound counties, and even trailing in the more conservative eastern Washington counties. The measure was pushed primarily by the Washington Farm Bureau, but previous allies such as the realtors, builders and timber companies stayed away from this proposal.

Prop 90 in California was headed to defeat, with more than 52% of the vote going against it, and even in super-conservative Idaho, Proposition 2 failed.

Arizona, however, appears to have passed Proposition 207, which in addition to limitations on eminent domain for economic development purposes, requires landowners to be paid of land-use decisions affect the value of their property.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voila -- Suburban Centers!

With the emphasis recently on the new development of downtown SLC and the Downtown Rising project, I felt a little out of sync in discussion the "centerization" of the suburbs -- see some of the recent blog postings.

But now, here comes a story in today's Trib about the attempted creation of "downtowns" in some of the suburban communities. No question it's hard to create from scratch, and it may not always succeed, but the attempt is underway. The emphasis still seems to be heavily on retail, however, with office and job centers as kind of an afterthought. We have the same issue going in Davis County with Farmington Station. We need to get those jobs in there to make them more truly viable "urban" centers.