Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the United States, with a rapidly increasing population and expanding economy. As the state continues to grow, there is a need for thoughtful planning and smart growth strategies that prioritize sustainable development, preserve natural resources and promote livable communities. Zoning is one tool that Utah can utilize to achieve these goals.
What is Smart Growth?
Smart growth is an approach to development that prioritizes compact, walkable, and transit-oriented communities designed to be environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. Smart growth strategies emphasize the importance of mixed-use development, preserving open space and natural resources, and promoting community connectivity.
These are some of the ways that Utah can utilize smart growth principles.
Encourage mixed-use development
One of the key ways that Utah can utilize zoning for smart growth is by encouraging mixed-use development. Mixed-use development is the practice of combining residential, commercial and industrial uses within the same area, which can help create more walkable and livable communities. Zoning regulations can encourage and require mixed-use development, such as allowing for greater density, allowing for a mix of uses within a single building, and requiring ground-floor commercial services in residential developments.
Prioritize transit-oriented development
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is another key component of smart growth that Utah can utilize through zoning. TOD involves developing high-density, mixed-use development around transit stations, such as light rail or bus stops. Zoning regulations can encourage TOD by allowing for greater density and mixed-use development near transit stations, as well as requiring ground-floor retail or commercial uses within a certain distance of transit stations. Utah is one of 14 states that is part of TOD pilot planning projects.
Preserve open space and natural resources
Preserving open space and natural resources is a crucial aspect of smart growth that can be achieved through zoning. Zoning regulations can protect environmentally sensitive areas, such as wetlands, riparian zones, and wildlife habitats, by requiring setbacks, buffer zones, and other protective measures. Additionally, zoning can encourage the creation of parks and open spaces within new developments, such as requiring a certain percentage of green space within a development.
Promote community connectivity
Zoning and smart growth can also promote community connectivity. Zoning regulations can require the creation of sidewalks, bike paths, and other pedestrian-friendly infrastructure within new developments. Additionally, zoning can require the creation of interconnected street networks that prioritize walkability and reduce reliance on cars.
Encourage infill development
Infill development involves building within existing developed areas rather than on undeveloped land on the outskirts of a community. Infill development can help reduce sprawl and preserve open space while revitalizing existing neighborhoods. Zoning regulations can encourage infill development by allowing for greater density within existing developed areas and requiring the preservation of historic buildings and character within these areas.
Utah can utilize zoning for smart growth by encouraging mixed-use development, prioritizing transit-oriented development, preserving open space and natural resources, promoting community connectivity, and encouraging infill development. By utilizing these strategies, Utah can create more sustainable, livable, and equitable communities that can continue to thrive in the years to come.