How do you resolve this dilemma: According to a Deseret News poll, 83 percent of Utahns strongly or somewhat agree that open spaces should be set aside now for future generations. The same poll, however, shows that 88 percent feel private-property owners should be allowed to do what they want with their own land, zoning permitted.
Obviously, substantial compromises regarding both views must be made for the good of future generations. Who should take the lead in reconciling the two positions?The answer is the governor and the Legislature. Yet neither has shown the leadership needed, though the governor has at least articulated his position. The Legislature, unfortunately, has abdicated its role.
It failed miserably during the recently completed session regarding the growth issue, voting to kill a modest bill granting citizens a simple tool to preserve farmland in their communities.
Failure to properly take the lead now will result in disastrous consequences later.
Gov. Mike Leavitt is right when he says the state, local government and the private sector cannot each on its own solve the problem but need to work together to provide what's best for Utah in the 21st century. He prefers a combination of gentle persuasion and incentives through which the state would be "partners" with the local governments.
"Partners" exactly to what? The governor and state planners, with support from the Legislature, need to lay out a vision regarding how Utah needs to deal with growth issues because if the past five years are an indication, there are serious problems.
According to market analyst Roland Robison, who addressed planners, developers, lenders and real estate agents at the E Center last month, Utah's urban sprawl is the worst in the nation.
During the past five years - boom years by anybody's reckoning - Utahns have built about 100,000 new homes on 70,000 acres. That computes to an average of 1.4 units per acre. The national average is at least five to eight units per acre.
To continue that trend is a sure prescription for disaster, and yet some cities along the Wasatch Front seem determined to be part of the problem by passing ordinances increasing minimum lot sizes. That penalizes young families who can't afford homes with those specifications and by doing so penalizes the entire state.
Growth is such a critical issue that the Deseret News recently ran a 12-part series on its various aspects. It is imperative that strong leadership at the state level take the point in dealing with those issues. As of yet that hasn't happened.