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Draper sets growth example

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Trying to accommodate growth while maintaining sufficient open space is a challenge. Most, if not all, of the communities along the Wasatch Front are in high-growth areas.

That includes Draper, which deserves credit for taking positive steps to achieve both growth and open space.

First of all, city leaders tried to preserve a large tract of land that had been farmed continuously since the settling of Draper in the 1850s. They wanted to work out a deal with the owners that would have permanently protected the empty fields from development. They were unable to do that as they couldn't match the almost $8 million sale price.

Having failed at that plan, Draper is doing the next best thing. The city is trying to work with the developers of a planned 400-plus unit subdivision to ensure there are provisions for open space in the development. Draper officials would like the subdivision to include a city park and an elementary school. They also are encouraging clustered housing instead of the typical lots common to most subdivisions, thereby increasing the amount of green space. They also want to reduce the number of cul-de-sacs. Doing that, they feel, would give the subdivision more of a feeling of community.

Growth is something Draper deals with frequently. According to city officials, it has been growing at the rate of 20 percent a year for the past eight-plus years. To help it plan for its rapidly expanding population, Draper has incorporated the ideas of Russell Arendt, a planning consultant from the Natural Lands Trust in Media, Pa. Arendt advocates clustering subdivision housing so that all houses face an open area. Front yards are narrow to leave room for a significant amount of shared parkland.

What works in Draper may not be the best approach for other communities. But the commitment to deal with growth responsibly is something each community should have.

And, there are growth principles regarding housing, business development and transportation that are applicable to all. Those principles can be integrated into a regional concept while still maintaining an individual sense of community.

Another thing Draper is wisely doing is getting input from its citizens before going forward with its various plans for growth.

Those cities that don't take the necessary steps to manage growth now, like Draper is doing, will find that it manages them later.