Complex problems are not going to be resolved in a day, or maybe even a year. For Utah, dealing with a population explosion is a complex issue that is going to require a lot of discussion, planning and vision.
Officials statewide deserve commendation for the serious attention they are giving the challenge of growth. But is talk going to translate into action? Thus far, there is little evidence that it will. Even modest proposals to reward maintenance of open space and to cluster housing have been rejected by the Legislature. Something - and someone - has to give if Utah's envied quality of life is to be maintained.The latest indication of concern about growth occurred Tuesday at the E Center in West Valley City where about 250 mayors, planners, business people and community leaders gathered under the auspices of Envision Utah. They looked at maps of the Wasatch Front from Brigham City to Nephi and fretted about encroaching sprawl and congestion.
What kind of neighborhoods will be most efficient and livable? How will people commute to and from their communities? How far will people travel to work, shop and play?
And given projections the state will triple its population by 2050, how can Utah best preserve its quality of life while providing enough homes and jobs?
Those are all good questions. A similar workshop last month asked "Where will people go?" as the Wasatch Front adds 1 million people by 2020. Similar sessions will come.
Dealing with growth is going to be an ongoing issue. Visionary leadership, starting with Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Legislature, is needed to determine whether growth occurs in a well-thought-out way or in helter-skelter fashion.
Solutions require creative, outside-the-box thinking. Examples of that Tuesday included:
- Putting a causeway over Utah Lake, linking east and west sides.
- Replacing the Utah State Correctional Facility near Point of the Mountain with several regional prison facilities scattered throughout the state, thereby freeing up valuable Draper land.
- Broadly expanding light rail and mass transportation throughout the Salt Lake Valley linking east and west locations, including one proposal to tear down the "Chinese Wall that exists west of the Jordan River and link the east and west sides."
Long hours of planning described above will be well worth the effort - but only if they become reality and are not merely a series of academic exercises.