The Bluffdale City Council made a curious decision last week. By a 3-2 vote, the council decided not to make a zoning change that would allow construction of a stop for FrontRunner, the new commuter rail line that eventually will connect Utah County to Ogden.
It was curious because it was so illogical.
Some Bluffdale residents say they worry about changing the nature of the city. They seem to be holding onto something that can't be held onto as a wave of growth crests over the Salt Lake Valley. Just as much of the agricultural land in the county has been gobbled by development, the pressure to build homes in the southwest part of the county is spreading urban life to places that once were characterized by a slower lifestyle. And those new residents want to be able to commute and travel easily in ways that don't pollute.
The irony is that other communities are beginning to plan new growth around mass transit in an effort to restore the type of friendly, close-knit neighborhoods people associate with a bygone era. Daybreak, a little to the north of Bluffdale, has made a future TRAX line a part of its construction plans.
The reasons for this should be obvious. Planners have learned that freeways tend to reduce the values of nearby residential areas. Transit lines, however, actually improve property values. To potential buyers, a transit-friendly neighborhood offers convenience and allows residents to keep automobile use to a minimum.
Without a Bluffdale stop, FrontRunner likely will go directly from Lehi to South Jordan. Commuters from Bluffdale can either drive to those communities or, what is more likely, wend their way to freeways and add to the daily mass of cars and exhaust that choke the valley.
The mayor and some other Bluffdale residents hope state lawmakers intervene to override the City Council. We're not sure in what context such an override would occur. The commuter rail line is in the hands of the Utah Transit Authority. In any event, such an override would raise other troubling concerns. Cities ought to govern themselves, and City Council decisions should represent the desires of city residents. Those decisions should not easily be overturned by outside agencies.
Even if the decision is unfortunate and wrong, as was this one.