Record editorial: Is regional planning out of reach? |

Record editorial: Is regional planning out of reach?

The Summit County Council, recently presented with a proposal to build storage units on the entryway to the Kamas Valley, decided to hold off on a vote to ask Kamas officials their opinion of the project.

It was an example of what officials have said for decades is one solution for the area’s growth-induced issues: regional planning.

And when the county attorney said she needed a few days to advise the council on how best to schedule a public meeting between the two governments, it was an example of some of the challenges that have stood in the way.

In a plea for collaboration more than 20 years ago, Park City’s then-community development director, Rick Lewis, asked a prescient question about the prospects of 6,000 residences or more on Park City’s doorstep in Wasatch County.

“Where would you go for groceries if you lived around the Jordanelle?” he asked.

The fact that Hideout officials used the same line 20 years later to justify their ongoing attempt to reach into Summit County to develop Richardson Flat shows the persistence of the problem, as well as a frustrating lack of progress.

Growth-induced crises of traffic, pollution and water usage might be avoided, the thinking goes, if governments could just get together and decide which developments ought to go where and how to transport people to and from them.

Why, then, has that proved so elusive? The persistence with which officials have failed to grab the mantle of collaboration raises the question of whether it can be accomplished at all.

To be sure, there are some entities, like the Mountainland Association of Governments, that serve the region. In 1976, the newly formed association described its role as helping the governments of Wasatch, Utah and Summit counties solve problems that “no single city or county had the ability to solve.”

That group now focuses mainly on issues affecting senior citizens and administering grants, laudable work, but not the land-use solutions officials say are necessary. Transit, sewer and water districts also may be able to reach across jurisdictional lines, but that remains a far cry from directing development.

When millions of dollars are at stake in a development application, the approvals, denials and lawsuits are based on the legal documents that govern the land.

Until there is a regional plan that can withstand that kind of pressure, something like a general plan for the Wasatch Back, developments will continue to progress in a disjointed manner and the residents will be the ones who bear the costs.

Writing such a document would be a herculean effort of consensus building, rife with conflicting and competing interests. But it would be a worthy undertaking and one that would benefit the entire region for decades to come.


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