ST. GEORGE — Washington County's future vision of Utah's Dixie includes more public transportation, fewer water-guzzling lawns, less sprawl and better use of public lands.

The official plan, called Vision Dixie, is a compilation of facts, ideas and planning principles gathered through dozens of brainstorming sessions held with members of the public and private sector.

"There is some concern about Vision Dixie coming this far and then losing some steam," said Washington County Commissioner Jim Eardley, who chairs the Vision Dixie executive committee. "I don't feel that way at all. We are planning to educate city councils, commissions, boards and so on, to put these principles into practice. We have got to follow up and finish this. We can't let it languish."

A draft of the final Vision Dixie document includes 10 planning principles, complete with a checklist and advice for local city and county leaders.

More than $500,000 was spent on the visioning process, which will be released to the public in its final form during the Washington County Economic Summit to be held Jan. 9 at the Dixie Center in St. George.

"We need to educate everybody on what Vision Dixie is all about," said Jeff Winston of Winston and Associates, the firm hired by the county to oversee the Vision Dixie process. "We had an unprecedented outpouring of public participation, and this is what they said they want. We don't want to encourage projects that don't mesh with this vision."

Highlights of the Vision Dixie report show that the public wants to maintain the air and water quality of the region and protect its unique landscapes. Open space and opportunities for outdoor recreation are also high on the public's wish list. Focusing new growth inward and building walkable, mixed-use centers within communities is another top priority, as is providing a broad range of housing options. Converting any public land to private use should only be done to sustain community goals and preserve critical lands, the report states.

Enterprise Mayor Lee Bracken, who also serves on the Vision Dixie steering committee, said the Vision Dixie principles "need to be incorporated into the general plan of each city."

"It needs to be the guiding plan for current and future city councils," Bracken said.

While there is no weight of law behind the principles, Eardley said there is plenty of public pressure to keep the process moving forward.

"Vision Dixie is a planning vision of what a community should look like," he said. "In no way should Vision Dixie assume the role of dictating to a legislative body what it should do. It should validate what a city does, and in many cases it will match what your city already has in its general plan."

An "implementation committee" is being formed to help educate the county's leading planning and governing bodies in the Vision Dixie principles, Eardley said.

"Vision Dixie would end up being reflected in the general plans and in the zoning," he said.

Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg said many of the Vision Dixie principles are already being applied in his town.

"Vision Dixie didn't have a huge impact on our general plan. It's not a big shift in our mind set anyway," Rosenberg said.

The fastest-growing cities in the county — St. George, Washington and Hurricane — face some of the same challenges, said Hurricane Mayor Tom Hirschi.

"This is going to be a living, breathing document, even years down the road," Hirschi said. "Each city has to adopt the Vision Dixie principles or it won't be worth a hoot."

"This is not a one-time thing. It's not going to come before a city council once and then they'll be done with it," said Washington County economic director Scott Hirschi. "This visionary process will take years, and in reality there will be new people and changes in the visioning process."

Results of the Vision Dixie process can be found online at www.visiondixie.org or www.washco.state.ut.us.


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