Utah has "envisioned" the future -- but has it seen the light? More importantly, will anything concrete come of the extensive Envision Utah planning process? Or will it all be a meaningless but benign academic exercise?
No one person or entity has the answers to these significant questions since management of growth occurs at grassroots levels. There is no "Growth Gestapo" to impose rules and edicts on an unwilling public, though some have feared Envision Utah would evolve into such. That, of course, is nonsense.Growth patterns will change only when the populace becomes dissatisfied with the status quo and applies enough political pressure to mandate it. The likelihood of that happening is questionable. Yet if it doesn't, the Wasatch Front has the potential to devolve into Los Angeles II.
It is one thing for Utahns to say they want better air quality or less congestion on highways or less urban sprawl -- but quite another for them to actually do anything about it. Consider that there has been little change in commuting patterns over the past couple of years in spite of construction projects that have resembled war zones.
Also, many employers are unwilling to relinquish old ways of doing business, compelling employees to punch the office clock from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when workers could be more productive -- and pollute far less -- by working at home or variable shifts.
Things do not have to be that way, however, and now is the ideal time to implement change. Envision Utah has fulfilled its initial role of facilitating civic dialogue about growth, and it has done so quite well. Its representatives have conducted hundreds of town meetings and surveys, and countless hours of presentation and debate.
The exercises have been helpful in pushing the state's No. 1 challenge -- according to citizens -- onto the front burner. Now it is time for implementation, for action.
Envision Utah continues to play a leadership role in proposing preliminary solutions that should be seriously considered. Some of those early suggestions include providing billing incentives for water conservation; merging the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Transit Authority; establishing development elevation caps; and making UDOT an actual department of transportation rather than just the highway department.
These are only a beginning. There is no simple "one-size-fits-all" solution to preserving open space and agricultural land, conserving water resources, enhancing air quality, promoting viable mass transit, renovating infrastructure and providing affordable housing.
Such complex issues require a cooperative assault on many fronts and by myriad groups. But there are solutions that can be uncovered and implemented by creative and determined minds. Envisioning them is only the beginning.