Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Utah officials plan how to handle 67% growth by 2040

Leaders discuss population trends, which present challenges in transportation, housing and quality of life.

First Published Mar 27 2012 01:36 pm • Last Updated Jun 25 2012 11:39 pm

The Wasatch Front is expected to grow by 1.4 million people over the next 30 years. So hundreds of officials from governments, businesses, universities and nonprofit groups gathered Tuesday to further implement plans on how to handle that growth while maintaining a high quality of life.

They heard updates on new regional housing and transportation plans and observed a demonstration of software that will allow cities to share modeling for the future, hold discussions on how to change zoning laws to allow new kinds of higher density development and exchange updates on expected demographic changes.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"It’s regional collaboration, but local implementation," said Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle as she welcomed about 350 people to the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Consortium at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

The group is using a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help local communities work together to implement a regional vision for the future that was developed by them through Envision Utah over the past decade.

"We are a state that is 90 percent urban that is living on 1.1 percent of the land. … What a responsibility to plan carefully," University of Utah research economist Pam Perlich told the group. That population density, plus an expected 67 percent growth in 30 years, has the group envisioning a different-looking Utah by 2040.

Instead of expanding suburban sprawl with single-family homes, the consortium hopes that maybe a third of the population would start to cluster in new town centers built around mass-transit stations that replace old, rundown areas.

Many would live in buildings that have businesses on the first floor, offices on the second and residences above that. Town centers would be designed to allow people to live, work and play in the same area, so they would drive less and walk or bike more. Transit options would expand so that most of the population would live close to major transit centers.

"If we grow in this way … we’ll save billions of dollars in infrastructure, transportation, water, sewer and utilities that wouldn’t have to be built. We’ll reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. We’ll use less water and energy," said Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

In breakout sessions, the group received updates on changes in zoning laws and financing to foster vertical development and software that cities could use to share land use and other planning with each other to ensure their local plans fit in well regionally.

They heard an update on an ongoing regional housing study that shows problems and opportunities.

story continues below
story continues below

One big problem, Perlich said, is that 30 percent of Wasatch Front mortgage holders now owe more on their homes than they are worth.

But that means housing for sale now is more affordable than it has been in decades, said Jim Wood, director of the University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research. "But people still can’t qualify for loans."

He said the rental cost for most new apartments for families is roughly the same that they would pay on a mortgage for a home — if they could qualify. High foreclosure rates have also created high demand for rental housing.

Perlich said population trends show that before too long, Utah will have more senior citizens than schoolchildren. Wood said cities need to consider that as they allow new housing; and some with older populations may want, for example, to encourage more single-floor homes than multistory housing.

Perlich also encouraged officials to remember that Utah is becoming more multicultural. She said that among children, minorities are already the majority, and Utah schoolchildren report speaking 129 different languages at home, showing they may face educational challenges previous generations did not.

"The thing we can do to impact in a positive way the possibilities of the next generation is to leave investments behind … in transportation, parks, libraries, universities," she said. "Utah is forever changed ... We are part of it. We’re not on the sidelines."


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.