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Sunday, April 02, 2006


Embracing Sprawl In Salt Lake City

“On the day when Salt Lake City is lauded as an anti-sprawl champion, Salt Lake County building permits figures show the cities surrounding Utah’s capital are sprawling out in record numbers.”

New data from Salt Lake County show record growth reaching to the outermost regions of the county. Estimates for housing permits show record breaking numbers for the county with a projected 6,984 housing permits issued throughout the valley this year, a nearly 5 percent increase since 2000.

New Housing Permits:

Salt Lake County 2005

Most Permits
Herriman – 788

West Jordan – 786

South Jordan – 740

Riverton – 586

Draper – 543

Salt Lake City – 489

South Salt Lake – 15
Least Permits
Source: University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research

Herriman, the furthermost spot west and south of Salt Lake City’s downtown saw the most housing growth. The sprawling community, once full of open fields and cow pastures, was followed closely by other suburban cities like West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton and Draper. Collectively, they are five of the six Salt Lake County municipalities that are farthest from downtown.

All this sprawl can make some wonder what Salt Lake City’s anti-sprawl efforts mean in a county that seems bent on stretching its borders to the limit.
Salt Lake City’s work to curb sprawl by promoting transit and urban redevelopment is a way of handling development, by filling in existing empty spaces within the city, “provides a choice” for people in deciding where to locate, and some are making that choice.

Salt Lake City was sixth on the list for most permits with 489. Total permits for additions and renovations in the city racked up a value of over $186.1 million so far this year.

In Salt Lake County’s existing free market most people are choosing to live far away, according to the housing building permit figures. Unfortunately, in some places in the county the message has come down that you can combat sprawl by having larger lots, larger lots actually make sprawl worse by eating up open space and creating higher infrastructure costs. In some places, however, city leaders are learning that denser development can save open space, lead to cheaper infrastructure costs and therefore less expensive housing.

Most of the new homes are being built in southwestern communities like Herriman and West Jordan, two cities that topped the list of new home permits this year. Developers in Herriman gained 788 new housing permits so far this year, many of which went to a new development called Rosecrest that built roughly 320 new homes in 2005.

Those high figures for the county's southwest are far above new permits in more urban areas like South Salt Lake, with only 15 permits so far this year. South Salt Lake is really low, but the difference in South Salt Lake is that it is built out. Communities like Herriman and West Jordan have a lot of room to grow.

Developers of Rosecrest are defending new housing in the far reaches of the county. The Rosecrest development, a 2,300-acre planned subdivision, straddles the Herriman and Bluffdale border with a projected 5,000 homes. Roughly 1,800 homes are already under way. Developments spreading farther out from downtown Salt Lake City mean developers have to plan for roadways and service to the residents, but the distance to downtown has not been an obstacle for Rosecrest builders or buyers.

Planned open spaces and mixed-use commercial pockets can also help downplay the feeling of suburban sprawl as housing inches southwest.
As the county expands, city and county officials will have to work together to make sure growth does not become unmanageable sprawl.
County leaders will also be busier trying to provide services like sanitation and sheriff's patrols to the new areas. It’s always a concern about how to keep up. The county will have to be very proactive in their support, which could pay off big in the long run. A little consideration today is going to save a lot of headache in the future.

". . . larger lots actually make sprawl worse by eating up open space . . ."

I wonder if we should question this assertion abit? I suppose larger lots mean homes are spread farther apart, and I suppose this is consistent with what people mean by sprawl.

On the other hand, "eating up" open space may not be quite correct. Suppose the countryside is divided into 5 acre lots with one house on each lot. Most of the 5 acres will not, therefore, have a building on it. So, let's say 5 acres with a building on 1/2 of those 5 acres, and 4.5 acres without a building on it. Suppose instead it is one acre lots with a building on 1/2 acre. Then on every lot you have 1/2 acre with a building and 1/2 acre without a building on it. Then for every 5 acres you end up with 2.5 acres with buildings, and only 2.5 acres without buildings. These illustrations suggest more open space is left with the 5 acre lots, than with the 1 acre lots.
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