Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
I-15 looking north bound in the Salt Lake Valley. UDOT announced its top 20 road construction projects statewide for the 2012 construction season, which is one of the busiest seasons in Utah's history April 5, 2012.
How a government deals with private property is a window to the soul of that government. A century ago, Sir Henry Maine wrote that "nobody is at liberty to attack … property and to say at the same time he values civilization. The history of the two cannot be disentangled." The desire and use of property raises mankind from political slavery. Community growth can be a challenge to that personal property right only if it is allowed to be.
Growth is good but must be managed in a manner consistent with our community values — including property rights. For starters, strategic investment in our infrastructure is needed. Roads and highways are engines for economic growth and job creation. The West Davis Corridor is an infrastructure investment for the community, but the proposed corridor route must be consistent with our community values.
One of the Utah Department of Transportation's proposed routes would require state government takeover of more than 10 homes, several businesses and would negatively impact roughly 300 other homes. Another route being considered would not impact families and businesses as dramatically but instead would intersect a few more acres of wetlands which might trigger federal intervention under the Clean Water Act.
The act suggests that a "practicable alternative" for wetland mitigation be pursued. This vague requirement, which was born from the poorly written and ambiguous Clean Water Act, is often interpreted to mean "avoid at all cost" even if it demands deviation from proper urban planning and development practices. In the instance of the West Davis Corridor, it could mean uprooting families from their homes.
We refuse to accept the notion that it's OK to sacrifice the rights of families living in their homes just so a road disrupts fewer wetlands. It is our firm belief that the West Davis Corridor can be built in harmony with both urban and ecological needs. We are not proposing that all wetlands be disregarded, but the highest priority should be placed on keeping Utah families in their homes while also meeting Utah's growing transportations needs.
Destroying homes and livelihoods and displacing our fellow Utahns could only be justified as a last resort when no other options exist. Fortunately, this isn't one of those cases. We should accept a route that harms the fewest families rather than a route that harms the fewest wetland areas.
The West Davis Corridor proposals are being considered by UDOT. Each proposal aims to meet with I-15 in a slightly different way, but it seems to us that the selection priority should be based on which proposal affects or destroys the fewest homes. It's important to take a step back and evaluate that as the prime goal. We share the view that the interests of our friends, neighbors and fellow members of the community are our No. 1 priority, and we should be working together to ensure personal property and safety are protected.
John Adams said the biblical injunction against stealing applies to government as well as individuals. So should it here.
Rob Bishop is the U.S. representative for Utah's 1st Congressional District. Steve Hiatt is the mayor of Kaysville.