By necessity we must devote much of our energies to advocating for effective alternatives to today's programs that chip away at the quality life we enjoy in Southwestern Utah. However, we also face two immense long-term challenges which, if not also addressed, will render our immediate efforts meaningless.
The first pf these challenges is climate change. It is becoming ever more likely that our grandchildren and their children will not experience the current quality environment in Southwest Utah. In our lead article Tom Butine argues that the while dire, the situation is not hopeless, pointing to action we can take to improve the situation.
The second of these critical threats is a failure of our local and county authorities to employ sound Smart Growth principles in land use and transportation decisions. Every day we are seeing development decisions that will lead to sprawl, congestion, and pollution. Our second newsletter article a8uthoried by Susan Crook discusses how state law and Smart Growth principles can point the way to changing development patterns.
By protecting our future, we protect what is precious today.
Climate is Boiling
by Tom Butine
Earth’s climate started simmering with the Industrial Revolution, 200 years ago. The temperature’s been increasing since then, and it’s come to a boil in the last 50 years. Since 2000, the science has become much more precise in understanding which human activities cause climate-warming emissions, and how those emissions are absorbed by the land, sea and air. Models predict with increasing accuracy the climate impacts, when and where and how those impacts will be felt, and if we stop them, how long the impacts will continue. It is not a pretty picture for all living beings, including any orderly human society. Our condition now is challenging but not hopeless.
American leadership is badly needed and warranted, since we’ve caused the most emissions and are still the per capita leader. For the past few years, action has been churning in our federal government. A carbon fee and dividend approach has growing bipartisan support. It would assess a fee on the fossil fuel content of all products at the point of extraction or the port of entry, and then refund it equally to all citizens, incentivizing a move toward cleaner solutions. This strategy embodies conservative principles of reduced regulation and reliance on the free market and is favored by economists. It will result in a net income for all citizens except the top 20% of energy users. A bill has been introduced in the House, and there is a companion being worked in the Senate. This year is critical, since next year will be embroiled in mid-term elections, the next Congress is a mystery, and we can’t wait much longer for action.
U.S. has entered unprecedented climate territory, EPA warns
The Trump administration delayed the report, which cites urban heat waves and permafrost loss as signs of global warming, for three years
Utah is key – a conservative yet pragmatic state. The state legislature passed a resolution calling for climate action and authorized the Kem C. Gardiner Institute to create a Climate Roadmap. Leaders in business, faith and government across the state have signed a Compact in support of it. However, real action is slow, and many state and local policies are contrary to progress. Nonetheless, key members of Utah’s congressional delegation are leading the way for federal action.
Locally here in Washington County, as the climate heats up, action is cool, even going backwards in some cases (e.g., St George’s tax on solar energy). Very few local leaders have signed the Compact. Growth, development and transportation policies increase rather than reduce our climate impacts. Water, land use and energy policies largely ignore the impending crisis.
Our children and their children will thank you for your efforts!
Tom Butine is President of the CSU Board of Directors and an active volunteer in Citizens Climate Lobby
Smart Growth is State Law
by Susan Crook
It isn’t spelled out in so many words, but take a close look at the state statute on general plans and you’ll see that Smart Growth is written into state law.
I’ve been following changes in the Utah Code on general plans for many years. I am encouraged by the latest updates that incorporate so many Smart Growth Principles. The one major disappointment is that most principles are only suggested, and there is no requirement for county-wide or regional coordination of general plans. But, if we focus on compact growth with neighborhood retail and employment centers, we may see more inter-municipal cooperation.
Utah Code Annotated § 10-9a-P4 mandates that, “each municipality shall prepare and adopt a comprehensive, long-range general plan.” Other parts of 9a explain how that planning process should be carried out, including detailed instructions on integrating moderate income housing with land use and transportation planning, as well as when and how public involvement happens.
With growth continuing apace in southwest Utah, Hurricane and St. George have recently undertaken general plan updates, and have reached the point in the process where they have asked constituents for input, as required by Utah law. Citizen input comes rather late in the general plan process. Since the long-range plans will affect growth patterns for years, CSU wanted to give you some guidance on the elements of Smart Growth so that you could effectively respond to these plans.
The pdf version of the Utah Code on general plans is not difficult reading. In fact, it’s very informative. There are items in the legislation that correlate with standard Smart Growth principles (if you click on each principle it expands with more detail). We present below a high-level summary of the ten Smart Growth principles defined by Smart Growth America. This should give you a basis for comparing current and future city/county planning with sound Smart Growth principles.
The way we push Smart Growth forward is by taking advantage of the Utah Code on general plans. Study the statute and share your exciting discovery that Smart Growth is the law in Utah with family, friends, neighbors, and, especially, your elected officials.
Smart Growth Principles
Mix land uses. Mixing land uses means building homes, offices, schools, parks, shops, restaurants, and other types of development near one another—on the same block or even within the same building.
Take advantage of compact design. Compact design means making more efficient use of land that has already been developed. Encouraging development to grow up, rather than out, is one way to do this. Infill development—building on empty or underutilized lots—is another.
Create a range of housing opportunities and choices. Building quality housing for families of all life stages and income levels is an integral part of a smart growth approach.
Create walkable neighborhoods. Walkable neighborhoods are in high demand across the country and it’s hardly a mystery why. Walking is a convenient, affordable, and healthy way to get around that never goes out of style—so long as people can do it safely and conveniently.
Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place. Unique, interesting places that reflect the diverse values, culture, and heritage of the people who live there have the greatest staying power. Projects and neighborhoods that incorporate natural features, historic structures, public art, and placemaking can help distinguish a place.
Direct development towards existing communities. Developing within existing communities—rather than building on previously undeveloped land—makes the most of the investments we’ve already made in roads, bridges, water pipes, and other infrastructure.
Provide a variety of transportation choices. Providing a variety of transportation choices—high-quality public transportation, safe and convenient biking and walking infrastructure, and well-maintained roads and bridges— helps communities to attract businesses and to improve the day-to-day lives of their residents.
Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective. Municipalities interested in encouraging smart growth development can and should examine their regulations and streamline the project permitting and approval process so that development decisions are more timely, cost-effective, and predictable for developers.
Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions. Every community has different needs, and meeting those needs requires a different approach from place to place. Smart growth is not possible without the perspective of everyone with a vested interest in a town, city, or neighborhood.
Susan Crook (ASLA, PLA) is a CSU volunteer and a licensed landscape architect with over 25 years of experience in government service as a planner and in private practice with emphasis on sustainable sites and historic preservation.
Ideas for who could be the new CSU Public Lands Director?
Conserve Southwest Utah (CSU) is seeking a high energy candidate with excellent communication skills and an interest in conservation for the position of Public Lands Conservation Program Manager/Director. This position has overall operational responsibility for the public lands program and its associated volunteer friends’ group, the Southwest Utah National Conservation Lands Friends (SUNCLF). It is a full-time exempt position, although the organization can be flexible in response to the applicant’s situation. The position reports to the CSU President or their designee. The focus is organizing the community in southwest Utah and beyond for the conservation and protection of public lands in Southwest Utah, engaging residents, and visitors in the stewardship of these lands.