People concerned with the design of our cities often use the word urban sprawl. Urban sprawl or suburban sprawl “describes the expansion of human populations away from central urban areas into low-density, monofunctional and usually car-dependent communities” according to Wikipedia.
There is the concern that urban sprawl is coming to the Snyderville Basin (if it isn’t already here). I often hear the rhetorical question, “do you want every single piece of land filled up in the Basin?” Of course not. Yet, when reading through a proposed development called Pace Meadows, which is 450 acres to the south and east of Home Depot, I started thinking about urban sprawl.
What the Pace Meadows land owners want is a mixed commercial/residential area on approximately 45 acres of their land. Right now they only have the right to build homes. On their 450 acres they could put 22 homes (1 home per 20 acres). This sets up the question of whether we as citizens would rather see 20 homes out on the prairie (I envision is looking something like Promentory) or whether we’d like to see a mixed commercial area with a grocery store, restaurants, bars, houses, etc. packed into 45 acres.
It makes me wonder whether residential sprawl, in this case, is preferable to commercial sprawl.
Past pure aesthetics, we also have to consider the traffic component of sprawl. The question is will a development like this, which has a strong public transportation focus, limit people from driving their cars? I suppose that depends on what percentage of people will take the bus. We’d need them to ride the bus to work in Park City and Salt Lake. We’d need their kids to ride the bus to Kamas or Heber (this is in the South Summit School District). We’d need them to ride to other places to shop (like if they wanted to go to one of the other grocery stores in town).
We’d need far more ridership out of this area than the average we see even in Salt Lake (5.8% of people in Salt Lake ride public transportation according to the census). Do we envision that? Could we restrict this area to one car garages and driveways? Could we tax parking to ensure that every hour of parking costs $30? Would the land owners even want to continue forward if those were the rules?
I understand that the Basin is full of unbuilt density. Yet, a huge amount of it is 1 home per 20 acre residential zoning. I’m starting to wonder if building that out is preferable in most cases to commercial development. If we are going to sprawl, would we rather have pockets of tight mixed residential/commercial activity or would we rather have homes dotted across the land.
I think that is one of the fundamental questions that we, the citizens of the Snyderville Basin, need to ask ourselves.