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Process has shown public support for Legacy

SHARE Process has shown public support for Legacy

I recently read with amazement the comments made by Sierra Club President Robert Cox as he visited Utah and talked about his organization's opposition to the proposed Legacy Parkway in southern Davis County.

His arrogance, along with that of Marc Heileson of the Utah Sierra Club, in stating that the planning process was flawed, is astounding to me. What these gentlemen are really saying is that the process came up with a result they do not agree with; therefore it should be stopped regardless of what the public has decided.

I am an urban planner. One of the main principles of my profession is that planners may educate, persuade and even sometimes advocate, but decisions are ultimately made through the democratic process established in our form of government. Many times, those decisions will not be what we planners think they ought to be, but it is high-handed arrogance to think that we could or should be allowed to override those decisions, because we "know better."

That is precisely what the Sierra Club leadership is about. Mr. Cox said the Sierra Club is prepared to hold the EPA "accountable in the courts" if it goes along with what they feel is an illegal planning process.

What was illegal about it? That a computer model was used to estimate future traffic demand that was off maybe a couple of percentage points? A majority of the people of Davis County, through planning processes that have been underway for years, and through their elected local officials, have made it clear that they support the construction of the Parkway. They have asked that environmental damage be minimized as much as possible but that the road be built.

Mr. Heileson stated, "Three years ago, if we had proposed transit through this corridor, we'd have been laughed at. Now they're talking about a tax for high-speed commuter rail." May I remind Mr. Heileson that the Davis County Council of Governments adopted a transportation strategic plan in 1994 that listed among its top five priorities the construction of the Legacy Parkway and also the expansion of public transit. The public involved in developing the plan recognized that with coming growth, both strategies were critical to meeting future transportation needs.

Legacy Parkway was supported locally when it was proposed by state officials because it met one aspect of that strategy. To help bring about the rest, Davis County officials have been in the forefront supporting a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase for expanding public transit.

As a professional planner, I support many of the concepts that Mr. Cox and Mr. Heileson talk about for our communities, such as more transit, walkable development and revamped tax policies. But I also agree that a highway in south Davis County is needed. I will educate, I will persuade, I will even advocate these concepts to the public. But I cannot in good conscience force my views on anyone.

To make our communities better in the future, people must be taught and persuaded, not bludgeoned into submission. Citizens of Davis County and Utah, watch out — the Sierra Club is prepared to make you swallow what they think best, whether you agree or not.

Wilf Sommerkorn is director of Community and Economic Development for Davis County.