The Art & Science of City Planning
City planning is both an art and a science; it requires both to sustain and create something beautiful and also to effectively deliver services. Mapleton is at the crossroad where art and science collide within our General Plan Land Use Element and our Parks and Recreation Master Plan update. That 2020 is a visionary year is no understatement for us. In fact, this crossroads will result in decisions that will shape our community for generations. Let’s make ‘em good ones!
Throughout the Update process, we’ve identified images that best reflect our preferences for the future Mapleton; we’ve also completed a scientific survey with quantitative findings that inform and elevate the image-driven anecdotes. This art-and-science-approach has layers of nuances important to our planning: we prefer investing in more trails than building more parks, we prefer lots no less than ¼ acre, we love where we live more than most people in most towns. [See my previous blog for more details on the simple truths, including thoughts on how we agree and disagree with each other.]
There is, however, far more value in the data that gives us powerful insights into priorities, resource allocation, and citizen characteristics. Since the last blog, I dug into the statistical analyses of this data to discover where we see statistically significant differences in populations and identify how these findings add value beyond the intended purpose for this project. These insights support and promote data-driven decision-making on land use and resource allocation at the granular level. And, this is something I love about city planning – attention to citizen preferences merged with sophisticated data provides accountability to citizens (and their tax dollars) and enhances the quality of life.
Our Mapleton department leaders are not new to these principles; rather, it’s my recent opportunity to use my previous experience to learn and contribute. Data is abundant at our city building and I just am fortunate to get to “play” with it! Therefore, while I’m not going to go through my 16 hours of analysis, I wanted to share some insights I’ve discovered from this data set that are also actionable. The notes I’m sharing refer to statistically significant data (α = . 05 for the stats nerds out there) from the scientific survey. The findings tell our story and reveal truths through numbers. I’d also like to provoke some reflection, so you’ll see some questions posed to our citizens – after all, we’re in this together! Please share with me you’re a-ha moments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
a. If you are 35-44, you will allocate more resources to parks, trails, and open spaces than roads and sidewalks.
b. If you are 65+, you will allocate more resources to roads than to parks, trails, and open spaces and sidewalks.
c. Younger citizens are most interested in library and high-speed internet investments.
d. Citizens 65+ are more interested in and see a greater need for smaller lot sizes (1/4 – ½ acre) than any other age group.
Questions: Are you surprised to see that 65+ citizens are more interested in smaller lots than other age groups? How does age affect infrastructure use and are there implications for taxes and fees?
Years in Mapleton Matter
a. The longer you’ve lived here, the more dissatisfaction you have about the preservation of the character and open space. You’re also less interested in high-speed internet or on varieties of conditional use permit options.
b. Residents of 3-5 years support grocery and restaurant development more than those of 11+ years.
Questions: How does witnessing change affect satisfaction or quality of life? Are there any barriers to bridge between our lifelong residents and newer residents?
Your Bias is Showing (Lot Size Matters)
a. Whatever your lot size, that’s what you think we should have more of in the future.
b. Those on less than ¼ acre are more satisfied with open space than those on ½ acre or more.
c. If you’re on a ¼ acre, you are more supportive of multi-family housing and more varieties of housing.
d. Those on smaller lots want to allocate resources to park upgrades while those on larger lots are more interested in agricultural space.
e. If you’re on a large lot (> 2 acres), you’ve most likely lived here for over 21 years.
Questions: Are you able to accept that your own perspective is not reflective of the entire population? What implications to parks and rec amenities exist between neighborhoods of smaller lot sizes and those with larger lot sizes?
Your Household Matters
a. Got kids in your home? You’re happier than those with no kids about the preservation of character.
b. No kids? You’re more interested in economic development than those with two kids are.
c. Got four kids? You want high-speed internet more than those with two kids do.
d. Got 3-4 kids? You want more sidewalks than those with no kids. You also want neighborhood linkage to trails more than those with no kids do.
Questions: Does the make-up of a neighborhood (kids vs. no kids) inform the city of where to prioritize certain projects based upon citizen preferences? Would we be wise to consider this in adding sidewalks and connecting trails closest to areas with large populations of kids before extending to areas with fewer children? Would there need to be an equitable balance of services provided to those who would prefer road improvements to trails?
Your Region Matters. Sometimes.
a. Region proved insignificant for the majority of the survey items; however, there are some interesting differences particularly between the northwest and southwest regions of the city. (The northwest is interested in smaller lots. (They recommend 72% of the future housing is a half-acre or less (including 18% a 1/4 acre or less). The southwest is interested in larger lots. The northwest doesn’t care as much about agricultural open spaces and doesn’t want to fund natural open spaces as much as the southwest.
b. We know from the parks geographic equity analysis that our biggest parks gap is in the northeast, but we know from the residents’ feedback they don’t necessarily want a new park. They’d rather preserve open space and upgrade existing amenities. However, the northwest would fund parks, facilities, and trails more than any other region.
Questions: What implications do we have when considering both best practices of city planning (e.g., park equity) along with citizen preferences (e.g., park interest)? Are you surprised that there aren’t more significant gaps in preferences by region?
Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share? Email me at email@example.com! Also, make sure you’re following OurMapleton.org to stay current on the planning process – and invite your neighbors to do the same! Follow the City Council on Facebook for ongoing updates, too – Jessica Egbert, Leslie Jones, Therin Garrett.
- Published in Community Development, Parks & Recreation, Uncategorized
Survey Says! (Thoughts on the Recent Survey Findings)
- Published in Community Development, Parks & Recreation
Meet the Candidates Q & A: My Responses
- Published in Priorities
Valley Visioning: A Peek Inside the Future of Mapleton’s Agriculture & Open Space
This week I had the opportunity to participate in the Agriculture and Open Space workgroup associated with the Valley Visioning project (through Envision Utah and the Utah County Association of Chambers). The purpose of the workgroup was to consider existing data and community feedback to evaluate potential agriculture and open-space scenarios for the next several decades. I joined the workgroup because of my desire to understand the opportunities and strategies to preserve beautiful communities such as ours as well as better understand Utah’s reliance on externally grown food. I am no agriculture expert!
One of the most important resources associated with understanding the state of agriculture is the Utah County Agriculture Toolbox. (I encourage you to read more here!) The Toolbox provides a sophisticated analysis that includes dozens of strategies and addresses threats to success. Two goals addressed by the Toolbox are:
- Work to make and keep agriculture economically and socially viable in Utah County.
- Encourage development patterns and implement measures that support agricultural land and water resources.
Both of the goals were addressed in the workshop and with consideration for population growth we’re anticipating through 2060. One fundamental question was whether we should grow west or south.
Without the context of geography, topography, and soil science, the answers are more difficult. However, we know that the central and southern end of Utah County includes prime land for producing niche, marketable, and needed crops. For example, hillsides that provide air flow and drainage are excellent for apple production. Yet, you won’t find a successful apple orchard in western Utah County anytime soon. Considering where our land best solves known problems is important in our long-term planning. In this example, it seems obvious that the majority of development should occur on the west side of Utah Lake where the land is less viable for farming these specialty crops.
Hobby farms that grow alfalfa do not solve our self-sufficiency issues. We raise plenty of proteins in Utah, yet we produce well below 10% of the fruits and vegetables we’d need should we no longer be able to import from places like California and Mexico. As a state that prides itself on self-sufficiency (both at the state level and in our own homes), adequacy of agricultural space and the designation of how that space is used are important conversations.
That brings up several other scenarios associated with the first goal. First, we value the rights of property owners. No farmer should be forced to keep land that he can no longer farm, isn’t interested in farming, and, potentially, for which his own children are likewise no interested in farming. However, if there were stronger economic models that incentivized current and future farmers, would that change the social attitude and interests about being a farmer? Would we create new farmers if they perceived a good living would accompany their hard work? Use of conservation easements, designated greenbelts, enhanced technology, improved water resources, and increased awareness across the citizenry are strategies that may support the emergence of a new generation of farmers. Farming which is supported by technology and science, and which is respected by the State and advocated by the community, is essential to Utah’s future.
Regarding the second goal, effective use of transferrable development rights (TDRs), as has been demonstrated in Mapleton, prioritizes the preservation and conservation of strategic lands. However, this is a model that has not been effective in many local communities; in fact, this might be something about which Mapleton may educate other municipalities throughout Utah! Complicated as they may be, having the intention set on open spaces empowers city leaders to make decisions consistent with community values. (TDRs for the win!) Additionally, every city should identify priority land that needs to be preserve for agricultural use or open space. Likewise, cities should ensure alignment between their general plan and zoning maps that respect best practices for growth.
In Mapleton, we have some citizens concerned about higher density developments destroying our beautiful views and gobbling up our open spaces. An interesting case study to watch is with the unique PD-1 zone for Mapleton Village through which we’ll have some high density residencies in a designated cluster and then the majority of the acreage are larger single-family lots. The unique angle is that this zone requires a generous 35% total open space. Providing flexibility for developers may, in fact, reduce suburban sprawl and preserve larger open spaces for us to enjoy. Many residents may feel having a home on every third or half acre is “sprawl” – yet, if we understand our zones, we see our residential zones don’t actually require open space – the PD-1, while allowing higher density, requires that 35% and which is achieved through master planning. For some, this may be a question on what is the lesser of the evils; for others this is perceived as an excellent approach to sustaining the “feel” that brought us all here in the first place. Where do you stand?
I’m interested to get your feedback on these topics! What are your thoughts on agriculture and open space? How should we address these in Mapleton to preserve the small-town feel we love?
- Published in Priorities