The Most Ambitious Land-Use Planning Effort in the U.S.—Not Where You Might Think

A 20-year, voluntary, bottom-up, large-scale, long-term planning effort in Utah has managed to bridge the divide between Mormons and non-Mormons, environmentalists and mining interests, farmers and city-dwellers.

2 minute read

January 20, 2017, 10:00 AM PST

By urbanguy

State Capital of Utah

Maciej Bledowski / Shutterstock

Collin Woodward, a contributing editor with Politico Magazine and author of five books, writes about the 20-year land use planning effort undertaken in the state of Utah. The effort was intended to conserve water use, promote clean air and avoid the destruction of open spaces by slashing housing lot sizes, encouraging higher-density development, and imposing new taxes to build a light rail network and commuter rail system from scratch.

Using a "voluntary, bottom-up, large-scale and long-term—has clicked with the people of a conservative state and bridged historic divisions between Mormons and non-Mormons, environmentalists and mining interests, farmers and city-dwellers. And it came out of an unlikely gathering 30 years ago. Some of the most influential figures in a staid and recession-shocked state came together at a dude ranch owned by the man who was the model for American fiction’s most famous bulldozer-destroying environmental activist."

Growth continues in Utah, writes Woodward: "[T]he challenge ahead is daunting. Last month, the Census Bureau revealed Utah was the fastest growing state in the country, and the majority of the growth is due to its people having the nation’s highest birth rate. Projections show Utah will nearly double its population to 5.4 million by 2050, further compounding the challenge of maintaining the quality of life its people treasure. So in 2013, current Governor Gary Herbert asked Envision Utah to do their magic again, only this time working statewide to determine what Utahns want the place to look like at mid-century."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 in Politico Magazine

Red on white 'Room for Rent, Inquire Inside' sign

In Most U.S. Cities, Archaic Laws Limit Roommate Living

Critics argue laws preventing unrelated adults from living in the same home fail to understand the modern American household.

May 24, 2023 - The Atlantic

Vancouver Chuck Wolfe

Ten Signs of a Resurgent Downtown

In GeekWire, Chuck Wolfe continues his exploration of a holistic and practical approach to post-pandemic urban center recovery, anchored in local context and community-driven initiatives that promote livability, safety, and sustainability.

May 24, 2023 - GeekWire

New York MTA subway station

Off-Peak is the New On-Peak

Public transit systems in major U.S. cities are starting to focus on non-rush hour travelers as pre-pandemic commuting patterns shift and transportation needs change.

May 19, 2023 - Curbed

View of cars stuck in gridlocked traffic with traffic lights in background

Research Indicates the Large Potential Benefits of Parking Cash-Out Laws

‘Free’ employee increases driving. Parking cash-out laws reward commuters who use climate-friendly modes, which increases fairness and reduces traffic problems.

1 hour ago - An Assessment of the Expected Impacts of City-Level Parking Cash-Out and Commuter Benefits Ordinances

Close-up photo of Megan Kimble against blurry green background with title "A journalist's take on planning"

Through the Eyes of a Journalist: Megan Kimble Reflects on Covering Food Systems, Zoning Changes, and Highway Projects in the Southwest

Kimble’s interest in topics related to urban planning spawned from research and writing about food systems in the borderlands of Arizona. She then moved to Austin in the midst of the city’s update of its Land Development Code.

3 hours ago - The Planning Commission Podcast

Nighttime view of Tacoma, Washington skyline

Tacoma Coalition Calls for ‘Tenants’ Bill of Rights’

The group wants to put more power in the hands of tenants, but the city has its own, competing proposal for addressing the housing crisis.

May 26 - The Urbanist

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.