Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Utah's Pioneers Embraced Smart Growth?

A couple of days ago, LaVarr Webb on his Utah Policy Daily web newsletter mentioned a paper written recently by Craig Galli, a local attorney. Craig has long had an interest in planning and transportation in Utah, and his piece, called Building Zion: The Latter-Day Saint Legacy of Urban Planning, appeared in BYU Studies (Vol 44, No.1).

It is an interesting paper, outlining the history of community planning efforts by early LDS Church leaders. There is no question that the communities of early Mormon Utah and surrounding areas were extensively influenced by a distinct settlement pattern.

Perhaps more interesting is Craig's assertion that this early Utah/Mormon "planning" effort resembles today's Smart Growth programs.

Craig writes, "The City of Zion plat included virtually all of the ... smart growth components: relatively high density (15,000 to 20,000 residents within 1.5 square miles or 960 acres), mixed commercial and residential development, community facilities and common areas, extensive landscaping, small urban farms and gardens, and surrounding open space. Once the community reached its population threshold, the Saints would 'lay off another in the same way, and so fill up the world in the last days.'"

An idea that might work well in the 1850's, but would it work on today's Wasatch Front, with 2 million residents and growing fast? Could we maintain open space between communities? Would there be a large CBD, like downtown SLC? Is it more cost efficient - wouldn't people eventually be living in one town and working in another, still driving all over the place? Still, it's an intriguing thought.

Craig continues, "In short, the City of Zion Plat and the urban design advanced by Joseph Smith and his immediate successors incorporated modern ideas of urban growth boundaries, land use regulations to direct growth, a town center, and surrounding protected greenbelt.
"In recognition of this fact, in 1996 the American Institute of Certified Planners awarded Joseph Smith's City of Zion Plat the National Planning Landmark Award, acknowledging it as one of the earliest examples of smart growth. (The award plaque reads) 'The Plat of the City of Zion, incorporated in a remarkable treatise on urban design addressed to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by Joseph Smith on June 25, 1833, guided the development of over 500 settlements in the Intermountain West, establishing a continuing commitment to the building of well-planned and culturally nurturing cities.'"


At 9:27 PM, Blogger Hippodamus said...

My esteeemed planner. For some time and from a distance I have watched your comments related to planning in Utah - from the philosphical to commentaries on the local politic. To date I have not commented but we now find ourselves with a natioanl disaster of catastrophic proportions. It is a time now to provide the basic necessities of life to those affected and bring order and structure out of the chaos that prevails in the affected areas. But as a planner I raise for you, my learned friend, a basic question - Should the communities so badly affected be rebuilt?

For your contemplation and thought I suggest for you that the historical, societal, political, economic, cultural, technological, etc., etc., values and contexts that allowed New Orleans to be established and built originally have now fully shifted and changed. Why rebuild a City at the original location when the framework and decision matrices for that first location decision have now changed with the passage of time, technology, governance and society. Are the locational decisions for a settlement at New Orleans made by the French and Spanish centuries ago valid today? Your thoughts


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