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(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) SoDa Row, Daybreak's first commercial district, recently added three new tenants, including a restaurant, a women's apparel outlet and a real estate office that will cater to a growing clientele of would-be homebuyers coming to the South Jordan community.
Daybreak’s mission vs. Kennecott’s emissions

Mining company builds a model smog-busting community, which is gaining fans — and foes.

First Published Mar 07 2014 09:12 am • Last Updated Mar 13 2014 08:45 pm

South Jordan » Family by family, one of Salt Lake County’s top polluters is building a community model it says could improve air quality along the Wasatch Front.

Kennecott Utah Copper is 10 years into an experiment in urban planning and sustainability on a scale unseen elsewhere in the Beehive State, with an intricately laid out mixed-use development in South Jordan’s west end known as Daybreak.

At a glance

Daybreak: Answers to air pollution?

As part of an occasional series on Utah’s air pollution, The Salt Lake Tribune looks at Daybreak, a mixed-use development in South Jordan, built by Kennecott Utah Copper and its parent company, mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. Begun in 2004, Daybreak uses a master plan based on sustainability and reducing reliance on driving, a key source of air pollution.

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Tucked away 25 miles southwest of downtown Salt Lake City at the foot of the Oquirrh Mountains, the community is designed to emphasize walkability and reduce sprawl-spawned driving. The nascent mini-city is expected to double South Jordan’s population, yet has remained off many Utahns’ radar.

But that profile is growing as record wintertime inversions force new policy questions on how to lessen pollution by cutting the sizable share of smoggy soup that spews out of automobile tailpipes. State regulators estimate that as much as half of polluting emissions come from vehicles — much of it belched out when cold engines first fire up.

Zakia Richardson lives in Daybreak’s East Lake Village with her husband and two grade-school kids. The children walk to Daybreak Elementary. The Richardsons enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, know their neighbors, hike and bike regularly and canoe together on man-made Oquirrh Lake come summer.

"I love the community," the New York native said. "I love what it offers, not only for myself but also my family."

In key ways, her family’s walks represent air-quality solutions. Tools such as improved fuels, trip reduction, car pooling and telecommuting are garnering new attention, but planners and policymakers also are looking to land use and neighborhood designs ­— especially with the prospect of adding up to 1.9 million Wasatch Front residents by 2040.

"Communities like Daybreak represent a chance at giving people options," said Keith Bartholomew, an urban planner and interim dean at the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning. "Driving is still possible but not mandatory. I believe Daybreak does a very good job with this.

"It’s not a perfect development," he said, "but no development is."

Walking is embedded in Daybreak’s model, with higher housing densities, smaller yards, space-saving home floor plans and designs, clustering around retail centers and an extensive trail system — all aimed at getting residents out their cars. Reviews are mixed so far, but positive signs do surface.

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A 2010 U. study found 88 percent of school-age students living in Daybreak walked to or from school at least once a week, compared to 17 percent in an adjacent community, with a street system of cul-de-sacs and bigger home lots.

To a leading Utah planner, each choice to let the kids walk means at least two fewer cold engine starts per soccer mom. And addressing vehicle pollution is as much about eliminating trips as shortening them, said Ted Knowlton, deputy director at Wasatch Front Regional Council, an intergovernmental planning group.

"That’s where a community that is walkable makes such a difference," Knowlton said of Daybreak’s early impact. "Where they’re at now, they’re on pace. There is so much of that community that is left to be built."

Love it, loathe it » Since it opened the first housing villages in what will be a 4,127-acre site, Kennecott’s community-making has proved popular with homebuyers. Nearly one in six new homes sold in the county are in Daybreak, accounting for about $1 billion in total home value since 2004.

Many Daybreak residents cite walkability and TRAX access as reasons they moved there, though they mention small frustrations over the lack of food shopping nearby and the many rules enforced by Daybreak’s homeowners’ pacts. They commonly praise its network of trails, interlaced parks and the short walks to school, church, community hubs and features such as SoDa Row, Daybreak’s small but expanding retail cluster.

"What they’ve created is a place people love," said Robert Grow, president and CEO of Envision Utah, a regional planning group that crafted key controlled-growth ideas underlying Daybreak’s plan. "They’ve created a demonstration of community building that is centered. It’s got the right kinds of components in it to make a great lifestyle."

But Daybreak has detractors and its rising influence brings into sharper relief Kennecott’s dual role.

Parts of Daybreak are built on a recovered mine waste site. The cleanup saw countless truckloads of tainted topsoil removed and replaced with fresh dirt under supervision of state officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kennecott officials insist the remediation made former evaporation ponds far safer than government regulations required. The costly cleanup also targeted groundwater contamination and has become a source of pride for the company and its parent corporation, global mining giant Rio Tinto.

"It is a shining example of what can be achieved with post-mining land use," said Kyle Bennett, a top Kennecott spokesman. Grow, who also has worked as an attorney for Kennecott Land Co., its land-management arm, said Rio Tinto built Daybreak on portions of the site to showcase a commitment to sustainability in its mining worldwide.

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