Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to District Five, Provo, and the World! May we find peace and love in our hearts and our community. May we have goodwill towards all. May that peace, love, and goodwill be reflected in our actions and our service to others.

West Provo

I know many of you are on the edge of your seat, anticipating my write up of December 6th's meetings. You'll have to hold on just a little longer. I'm part way through it, but much of my time has been focused on West Provo.

West Provo is the topic of this post and I recommend that anyone who has interest in the future of this area read through the end of it. It covers two topics: The requested authorization of eminent domain for the next phase of the Lakeview Parkway, and future development in the area of Provo west of I-15 and south of the Provo River, with a heavy emphasis on how agricultural uses are treated.

Eminent Domain

Authorization of eminent domain was considered at our 6 December Council Meeting, and the item was continued until our next meeting on 4 January. Many questions were raised during the meeting, to which we asked our City Engineer, David Graves to respond. He has done so. Normally this information wouldn't be published until the Thursday before the meeting (which in this case would be 29 December), but I requested that we get it out sooner to give the public more time to review it before the meeting. I'm grateful that the Council Staff were able to make it happen. So here is some light reading for your holiday enjoyment:

I should note that for the "Westside Connector" portion of the Lakeview Parkway, three separate times Public Works came to the Council to request eminent domain permission. I believe the three requests, all of which were granted, covered nine or so properties. If I remember right, 37 or so of the properties directly affected by this stretch have reached negotiated resolutions, including a majority of the nine. Only two properties haven't been settled on, and the City is still hopeful that agreement can be found on the last two without turning to the courts for eminent domain. My point is that even if we authorize eminent domain, it doesn't mean that it will be used. I believe it is everyone's hope that negotiated resolutions can be found for this next phase as well.

West Side Planning and the Purpose of Agricultural Preservation

In an extraordinary step for transparency because of the intense public interest in this topic, the Council made the meetings of the West Side Planning Committee open to the public. Even if you can't make it to the roughly every-other-Tuesday meetings, you can follow along here: You'll find summaries of each meeting, along with links to the audio of the proceedings.

One of the hot topics of study and discussion has been the future of agriculture in West Provo. We have talked a lot about "Open Space" which agricultural land can be considered, along with things like developed parks, and natural environs. A couple meetings ago, Committee members were given the "homework assignment" of explaining what they see as the purpose of agricultural preservation. I took this as a sincere question, because the outcomes that we want to achieve by agricultural preservation will determine how we go about the preservation. Avid readers of my blog (or should that be "avid reader") know that I already posted my homework submission, but for the rest of you all (or is it just "you") here is the link:

I'm checking into whether the rest of the submissions are considered part of the open meeting and can be posted. Hopefully we can get them onto the West Side Planning Committee blog very soon. So check back often!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Purposes of Agricultural Preservation

Heritage and Sense of Place
Farming has been a part of life in West Provo for the last 150 or so years. It is a part of the heritage of the area. Preserving agriculture in West Provo helps preserve that heritage. Healthy communities have a sense of place. Growth and develop in West Provo should be done in such a way as to honor and respect the heritage and sense of the area.

Psychological Wellbeing and Recreation
Agricultural land functions as a type of "Open Space". It is peaceful and can create a sense of wellbeing in many who merely look upon it. Getting out into an agricultural area can give someone a sense of solitude and a place to think, meditate, and reflect on the weightier matters of life. If we plan to spend public resources on something, we need to make sure that it is happening in a responsible, effective and efficient manner. If we set aside a certain amount of dollars to ensure that the residents of Provo have access to places which provide such benefits, we should use the use the money in such a way to get the biggest benefit for the most people. Other types of "Open Space" include developed parks and natural habitat. Certain sections near the Provo River bank allow for public access to wooded areas, like Paul Reams Wilderness Park, and the picnic tables along the last mile or so of the river before the Stake Park. Such areas could be preserved and expanded. Boardwalks could be built in the wetlands and in the coming Provo River Delta. The land could be used for developed parks, possibly even a regional sports park. All of these open spaces can provide important benefits to our community, and I think that a mix of open space types is likely to provide the best value for our investment.
Some of the best ways to provide interactive open space is through private ventures like the corn maze and the rope's course which already exist in West Provo. Other types of agritourism and recreation in natural(ish) settings may be private, public, or joint ventures. Salt Lake County's Wheeler Farm (a public park), or Young Living Farm in Mona (a private venture open to visitors), are examples from other places. A community garden would be another example. We should be prudent in how much public resources are used to support the retention and expansion of such amenities.

Food Security
West Provo has some of the best growing conditions in Utah. By restricting the land to only agricultural uses, we are less dependent on food being shipped in from elsewhere. I believe the last number of acres that we were discussing as having potential for development was 870. A rough rule of thumb is that one acre of land can produce enough food for one person ( So if we restrict development from all 870 acres, and all of it begins to be used for food production, we could theoretically feed roughly three-quarters of one percent of the current Provo population. Perhaps the bigger impact is that the population of Provo wouldn't grow as quickly, so one could argue that there would be more food security because there would be less mouths to feed. But the demand for housing in the region would not be any less and the population that wouldn't come to Provo would likely go elsewhere in the County, likely in less compact form, requiring even more agricultural land be developed which would actually decrease the food security of everyone in the County, including Provo residents. This is why the Agricultural Toolkit advocates for more compact growth which allows for less agricultural land overall to be developed.