Salt Lake County’s proposed Mountainous Planning District has received positive recommendations from both the Salt Lake County and Millcreek Planning Commissions and now awaits action from the Salt Lake County Council!
The Wasatch Mountains are a regional asset and we believe that anyone in the region should be able to have representation on the body that approves or denies requests for development that impact them. However, as the statute stands today, only those who live in unincorporated Salt Lake County can serve on that commission. Furthermore, there is no requirement in ordinance or law that any canyon resident hold a seat on that commission. The 9 person Mountainous Planning Commission, including two members of the County Council, would represent a wider swath of citizens by opening seats to residents County wide including canyon residents. We think that just because you live in South Jordan, Draper, Salt Lake City, West Valley, Murray, South Salt Lake, Sandy, Taylorsville, to name a few, shouldn’t preclude you from serving on a commission that ultimately deals with the fate of your drinking water, your trail access, what happens at ski resorts (the next mountain coaster or hidden peak?), etc. A place as unique and cherished as the Wasatch is certainly deserving of more representation.
Also of concern is that there are efforts afoot to establish Metro Townships, or establish new townships throughout the County. Whenever a township is formed that township is granted land use authority and its own planning commission. While we really haven’t weighed in on the metro-townships or the establishment of new cities within the county (you can learn more about that here), what concerns us most is that land use authority gets shifted around. We don’t think that each canyon should have its own planning commission that is solely comprised of canyon residents. We also don’t think that canyon issues should be lumped in with urban issues, land use is complicated enough, it would be wise to have a body focused solely on the natural resource that form the eastern flanks of our county. These canyons in large part belong to all of us, they provide drinking water to almost a million valley residents. Shouldn’t those residents have more than just a say before a county-wide planning commission on these issues? As our County changes, we need to make certain that various interests have representation, not just a voice, on important land use decisions facing the Wasatch Range. This is not to say that land owners in the canyons don’t have the best interests of the canyon at heart, we know many who do, also many who don’t. The interests are numerous, residential, development, commercial, recreation, environment, wildlife, etc. These councils are frequently confronted with big decisions, and the greater and more diverse the panel, generally the better informed the decision making process.
With a more focused area, the Mountainous Planning District board can be better trained in the ordinances they regularly interact with, specific to the mountainous areas, as opposed to the twenty plus zones that are currently in effect. This board would be able to have more attention, training and specificity to the unique needs of our canyon environments – that’s our hope at least!
We have been advocating for better representation in the planning process especially when concerning issues in the Wasatch Mountains, after all, these canyons belong to us all, everyone in the USA, not just those who own land within or next to this unique landscape. Speaking of landscapes, shouldn’t the Wasatch be managed like one? Or should it be continually subdivided by municipal and residential interests? We tend to believe landscapes and ecological units are best managed when they are large and intact so we can consider the varying impacts of our actions on the natural environment, our beloved Wasatch.