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Sanpete must take reins to regulate inevitable growth

 

Anyone who has driven to Salt Lake County has experienced the traffic congestion between Orem and Lehi and observed the proliferation of high rise buildings on Silicon Slopes north of Lehi.

Many of us remember when most of Utah County and the southern part of Salt Lake County were farm land. Now they are blanketed by subdivisions.

Is this what’s next for Sanpete County?

Make no mistake, growth is coming. Salt Lake County is almost completely developed, and Utah County is close behind. Housing prices are at record highs all along the Wasatch Front.

Northern Sanpete County, especially Fountain Green and the Indianola Valley, is becoming a bedroom community for people commuting to jobs in Utah and even Salt Lake counties.

And that’s not all. Many people see Sanpete, in the words of former Sanpete zoning administrator Devin Fowles, as “a little slice of paradise” and are building retirement and vacation homes here.

“Paradise” is indeed what the residents of Sanpete must preserve, where relatively close proximity to the conveniences of the Wasatch Front is combined with a rural lifestyle.

To achieve that will require careful thought and planning by elected and appointed officials, who must follow the land use ordinances and processes we have in place.

A top priority must be road planning starting with a county road master plan incorporating the data and expectations for growth we now have.

Whenever a development goes in, there needs to be a clear plan to move residents in and out of their homes. The plan will need to consider how traffic from the development will impact existing roads. Will turning lanes be required? Or will a road ultimately need to be widened?

As the county commission has just discovered, the county and cities need to be aware of any new development that will put traffic onto state roads. And then local governments must inform the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) so the state can incorporate the traffic increases into its road expansion plans.

Second, the county planning commission needs to be in a position to coordinate with city planning commissions, especially on road patterns. That means cities must get their buffer-zone plans into the county planners. Ephraim has had one for years and Spring City has just finished theirs. Kudos to both cities.

The county needs to push subdivision-style development toward existing municipalities by sticking strictly with its 5-acre minimum for homes in the unincorporated area.

Wherever development goes, water, sewer and in some locations, power, will need to be provided by the cities, which should be constantly enlarging their infrastructures in advance of growth so they’re ready when people need to hook up.

Third, municipalities must stick with all their existing processes for subdivision development, including review of plats, requiring bonds for improvements, charging impact fees, and requiring developers to put in streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

Finally, municipalities need to consider recreation needs. Significant population growth will create a need for more parks. On the Wasatch Front, developers of large subdivisions must deed land within their developments to the city for parks. Smaller developers must pay an impact fee.