Future Planning Report called ‘nothing new’
During their regular meeting on Wednesday, Summit County Council members got their first look at the Alternative Future Plan, submitted by Professor Richard Toth of Utah State University, and they were not impressed.
The report outlines a variety of factors the council should examine when evaluating future growth and development planning. Toth’s research suggests that if no new housing developments are added, housing demand will exceeded capacity for Summit County by 2024.
But council members questioned the data, saying it was unclear what factors were used to estimate population growth and demands.
According to Council member John Hanrahan, the projection could be greatly skewed by supply and demand. As less housing became available, the more expensive it would become, causing less demand for the remaining units and growth to drop instead of continuously climbing as the report showed, he explained.
The report focused on sustainable growth to maintain the community’s quality of life and emphasis on environmental preservation. Brian Young, the graduate research assistant who presented the report to the council, stressed that concentrating growth within municipal hubs saves tax money and preserves open space. Quoting from the report, Young added it was important to keep development off of valley floors and away from sensitive environmental areas to preserve both viewsheds and water quality.
Council members questioned how they could expand municipal hubs, mostly located in valley floors, while also preserving them.
Responding to the council’s criticism Toth said, "What’s important is the process that we are giving you. The assessment models can show where you are going into trouble, putting people in harm’s way, or not keeping with the goals and values that are deemed important to the community."
The conflict between accommodating a growing population while also preserving open-space is one that council member Sally Elliott noted was nothing new and is part of most development debates.
Young responded that, "It is not about keeping people off land, but doing things correctly in the right place."
New Park was highlighted by the council as an example of development in keeping with community values and one that was not flatly opposed by residents.
The report offered two main conclusions: that the community should "focus on commercial, institutional and residential development on regional hubs to allow for pedestrian accessible communities that can be connected by a regional transit system," and, secondly, to concentrate on landscape resilience and limits "because development on those lands impacts critical water issues immediately."
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